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BBC Music Magazine Review, A Tender Light

Posted on 1st March 2012

Around two billion people around the world watched the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton last year. That’s the mother of all shop windows for the Welsh composer Paul Mealor, whose motet Ubi Caritaswas sung on that occasion.

It’s sung again on this selection of Mealor’s choral music, its mixtures of expressive lyricism with occasional unexpected harmonic shadings beautifully rendered in Tenebrae’s impeccable performance. The same penchant for pepping his writing with sudden twists of harmony and modulation characterises the four settings of Now sleeps the crimson petal, premièred in 2010. Upon a bank is the most distinctive of these, a balletic movement, brilliantly executed by Nigel Short’s singers.

It’s arguable that the easy warmth and approachability of Mealor’s idiom doesn’t sit as appropriately with the subject-matter of the Stabat Mater, which has more the whiff of concert hall than cloister about it. Salvator Mundi is more convincingly inward, traces of melismatic writing giving the warp and weft of the music more intricate detail than the other pieces.

Terry Blain