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Ave Maria

Ave Maria cover picture

The Girl Choristers of Wells Cathedral

Director: Malcolm Archer
Organ: Rupert Gough
Ave Maria Camille Saint-Saëns

How like an Angel Malcolm Archer

Magnificat The Four Cathedrals' Service Malcolm Archer

Nunc Dimittis The Four Cathedrals' Service Malcolm Archer

Ave Maria Daniel Roth

Ave verum, Op. 65 No. 1 Gabriel Fauré

The Tree Jonathan Harvey

Ave Maria, Op. 93 Gabriel Fauré

Mass in E flat, Op. 155 Joseph Rheinberger
Agnus Dei

My song is in sighing Martin Dalby

Third Symphonic Canzona, Op. 85, No. 3 Sigfrid Karg-Elert
Violin: Rachel Gough

Total playing time 63m 08s

Ave Maria

Ave Maria

Both Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) and Fauré (1845-1924) worked in the most fashionable church in Paris, the Madeleine, parish church of the Elysée. Despite serving the church for almost fifty years between them, both were essentially atheist and took church employment until they could achieve financial independence. Their church compositions owed more to the salon or opera house than to the traditional heritage of Gregorian chant and renaissance polyphony. Saint-Saëns' setting of the medieval Marian antiphon Ave Maria was composed around 1860 and typifies this style with its prevalence of sentimental melody and harmony. In a style reminiscent of his ever popular Requiem, Fauré's Ave verum was composed in 1894. The text is a medieval sequence for Corpus Christi. Fauré's Ave Maria was completed in 1906 and based on an earlier version of 1877. In a letter to his publisher, Fauré wrote of this motet: "[it] is by nature destined more for the chapel or salon then for a large church. I see its future lying especially in the choral classes for young ladies."

How like an angel was written by Malcolm Archer (b. 1952) in response to a commission from the MMA (Music Masters and Mistresses Association) in memory of Stanley Milne, and was first performed at the MMA conference when it was held in Clifton College, Bristol in 1998. The piece is a setting of a poem called Wonder by the seventeenth-century mystical writer Thomas Traherne. The Four Cathedrals' Service was commissioned by the biennial Four Cathedrals' Festival in the summer of 1996, and was first performed that year in Bristol Cathedral by the girl choristers of Bristol, Exeter, Salisbury and Wells Cathedrals.

Daniel Roth (b. 1942) is the current Titulaire of the Grand Orgue in Sainte-Sulpice whose predecessors in this post include Marcel Dupré and Widor. The Ave Maria was composed by Daniel Roth in 1969 when he was organist at Sacré Coeur, Paris and was written for the male quartet of the church. It was edited in 1978 for the first magazine of Pueri Cantores and is equally suited to upper voices. The music is very much inspired by Gregorian chant.

Joseph Rheinberger (1839-1901) was born at the court of the Prince of Liechtenstein, where his father was treasurer. He was clearly regarded as a local prodigy and at the age of twelve went to study in Munich where he lived for the rest of his life. As well as being one of the most sought-after teachers of composition and a much respected conductor and organist, his organ music was widely performed both on the continent and in England. Rheinberger was influenced by the Cecilian movement, which sought to restore to liturgical music a Palestrina-like purity that would not detract from the Mass. He wrote a total of eighteen masses which are reverential rather than dramatic and the Mass in E flat for three-part female choir and organ is no exception: a late work (1888) imbued with a deep serenity. The work is subtitled "Reginae Sancti Rosarii" ("To the Queen of the Holy Rosary"). Much of the writing is very contrapuntal, including a Benedictus with the two higher voices in canon throughout, and with a simple organ accompaniment lending support and embellishment to the vocal writing.
The Tree is a setting of verses from Job, commissioned by the Church Music Society on the occasion of its 75th anniversary in 1981 and was first performed at the Southern Cathedrals Festival the same year. Jonathan Harvey (b. 1939) creates in this work a musical form devoid of cultural roots: the music is not only timeless but also neither Eastern nor Western. The vocal line consists of a twelve tone melody with no tonal centre, and this is supported by sustained high-pitched clusters from the organ. The organ sound is inspired by the sound of the Japanese mouth organ (the 'Sho'), a pentatonic instrument that symbolises eternity to the Japanese. Each sung phrase seems to centre around a certain note, 'sprouting' ever further away from the centre as the piece progresses.

The Scottish composer, Martin Dalby (b.1942), studied composition at the Royal College of Music with Herbert Howells. In 1965 he was appointed as a music producer to the BBC's newly formed Music Programme (later to be Radio 3). In 1971 he became the Cramb Research Fellow in Composition at the University of Glasgow and in 1972 returned to the BBC as Head of Music, Scotland. In 1993 he retired from the BBC and now composes full time. My song is in sighing, written in 1964, is a short and very simply conceived motet to words by Richard Rolle of Hampole (1290 - 1349?) which come from a longer poem depicting the poet's yearning to receive Christ into his life.

Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) succeeded Max Reger as Professor of Composition at the Leipzig Conservatorium in 1919. Years earlier, he had been a student there under Jadassohn and Reinecke, two very conservative masters with whom Frederick Delius also had studied. Like Delius, Karg-Elert had a natural gift for harmony and was encouraged to compose by Grieg. Although he left music for a variety of media, he is best remembered as a composer of organ music. His Three Symphonic Canzonas were composed in 1910. The basis of the third, which in its Epilogue adds violin and four-part female chorus to the organ, is the plainsong phrase Credo in unum Deo; credo in vitam venturi saeculi. In a self-revealing letter to his English friend Godfrey Sceats, Karg-Elert, son of a Catholic father and Protestant mother, wrote: 'I love this piece tenderly; it was written, frankly, in a vein of exaltation, and savours of holy water and consecrated candles...that is the Catholic side of me, which cannot readily be reconciled with Lutheranism.' The work is in F sharp major, a favourite key of Karg-Elert's. After a solemn presentation of the motto-theme, the Fugue begins, Sostenuto e misterioso, growing gradually in strength until the plainsong fragment, introduced at intervals like a choral above the fugal texture, builds up the main climax of the work. The central Canzona, based again on the motto-theme, also builds up to a powerful climax, and is linked to the Epilogue by the entry of the solo violin. After the voices have sung the phrase Credo in vitam venturi saeculi in unison, the violin plays an expressive melody in the high register, a self-quotation from an earlier work. This serves as a prelude to a polyphonic four-part Amen sung by the distant chorus beneath the violin's high held F sharp. After one final Credo in vitam venturi saeculi by the choir, the organ steals in to support the final Amens, while the violin relinquishes its high inverted pedal point to wreath a final arabesque to the hushed ending.

Rupert Gough, Wells 2001
Karg-Elert note © Felix Aprahamian 1968

Malcolm Archer

Malcolm Archer was appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers at Wells Cathedral in 1996 where he directs and trains the Cathedral choirs for the daily services in the Cathedral as well as being Director for Wells Cathedral Oratorio Society.Malcolm was educated at King Edward VII School, Lytham, the Royal College of Music, (where he was an RCO scholar) and Jesus College Cambridge where he was organ scholar. He studied the organ with Ralph Downes, Gillian Weir and Nicolas Kynaston, and composition with Herbert Sumsion and Alan Ridout.He has given organ concerts in nine European countries, Canada and the USA, and among other notable invitations, he has played for the IAO Congress on more than one occasion and given the Winston Churchill Memorial Concert at Blenheim Palace. He has also recorded for BBC Radio 2 and Radio 3. He has played at most principle venues in the UK including Birmingham Town Hall, Fairfield Halls, Croydon, St David's Hall, Cardiff, Westminster Cathedral and King's and St. John's Colleges, Cambridge. In February 2001 he gave a recital as part of the American Guild of Organists conference at Lancaster, PA in addition to two other visits to North America to direct choral courses. He has recorded six organ CDs in repertoire as varied as J. S. Bach and Olivier Messiaen.Malcolm is also a prolific composer with over 150 published works. He has written Three Psalms of David which received its premire in Wells Cathedral as part of the Classics West Festival, with the Classics West International Chorus and The Virtuosi of London. He has also written a five movement millennium work for Lichfield Cathedral. He was commissioned to write works for The Southern Cathedrals Festival in 1998, for the Exeter Festival and the Musica Deo Sacra Festival. Recent commissions include a major work for the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, Texas, a work to celebrate the re-opening of St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow following its refurbishment, and a setting of the evening canticles for Wells. He has recently been commissioned to write an anthem for the 350th Sons of the Clergy Festival, which will be held in St Paul's Cathedral in 2004.Malcolm Archer is an examiner and council member for the Royal College of Organists and an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. He is also a member of the Cathedrals Liturgy Group and the Association of English Cathedrals working party for music funding.

Rupert Gough

Rupert Gough was appointed Assistant Organist of Wells Cathedral in 1994 where he accompanies and assists in directing the nine sung services every week. He appears regularly with the choir in concerts all over the world, on the radio and can be heard on many different recordings. His cathedral duties are combined with teaching and concert work and he is Organ Tutor for Wells Cathedral Specialist Music School. He won third prize in the St. Albans International Organ Competition in 2001 and has been a finalist in the Royal College of Organists Performer of the Year competition. He also enjoys a busy career as recitalist, conductor and accompanist and has travelled widely across Europe, Brazil and the USA.

Rachel Gough

Rachel Gough learnt the violin with Gillian Sansom for eleven years before attending the University of East Anglia, where she won performance scholarships enabling her to study with Hugh Maguire. With a scholarship from The Wall Trust she entered the Royal College of Music, studying with Frances Mason and receiving regular chamber music coaching from the Chilingirian Quartet. She graduated in 1997 with an MMus Degree in Advanced Performance. Rachel is a violin tutor at Wells Cathedral Specialist Music School and pursues a busy freelance career in the West of England working regularly with a number of chamber ensembles as well as other solo and orchestral work.

Rachel and Rupert formed the Gough Duo in 1997 to explore the original repertoire of music for violin and organ. Being the only regular violin and organ duo in Britain, their performances have aroused much interest and they now pursue a international concert career performing regularly across Europe and the USA. During 2000 they were invited to perform a programme of Karg-Elert's music as a part of the Third Karg-Elert Festival. Their first commercial CD was released in the same year. For more information about the Gough Duo visit their website:

Recorded in Wells Cathedral on 27th February, 1st March and 27th April 2001 by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter.

Produced by Barry Rose and David Terry

Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews

Cover photograph: Mary Andrews of a 13th Century stall in the Cathedral of St Peter, Poitiers.