MusicWeb

James Cook works within traditional tonal boundaries; knowingly or unwittingly acknowledging links with the British choral tradition.

His music constantly evokes Delius, Hadley, Howells, Holst and Vaughan Williams – the mulch for his inspiration – not at all a case of plagiarism. Listen to the Delian cradling of The Lap of Eternity, Heavenly death and, up to a point, in I give to thee eternal life. Tippett’s spirituals are called to mind by All loves excelling and Death is my Best Friend. The organ underpins The way to heaven and Beyond the moveable heavens – gravely serious devotional settings.

As if to ratify his chosen ‘stream’ the words he sets are drawn from the King James version and from sixteenth and seventeenth century English spiritual poetry. The words are printed in the booklet along with notes by the composer.

His settings vary from unison to affluent polyphony. Rather like Todd (whose choral works would appeal to anyone who likes this music) some of these settings are simple hymns but many revel in counterpoint and in the solo line or lines making passionate sport with the main body of the chorus.

This is The Divine Art’s second Cook CD. The first was Heaven’s Happiness again with Voces Oxonienses on 25023.

Sincere and moving, unglamorous settings written within the accommodating embrace of the Cathedral tradition. These pieces are sung with total professional commitment; the only blemishes coming in the excessive strain placed on a number of the solo voices – for example the tenor in the otherwise transcendent Heavenly death.

—Rob Barnett