Francis Pott: The Cloud of Unknowing – Organists Review
Pairing my favourite adult choir with the excellent soloists of organist Jeremy Filsell and tenor James Gilchrist, is an instant winner. Furthermore, to combine all three with Pott’s exciting oratorio is a must, and I wholeheartedly recommend this recording of The Cloud of Unknowing, an interesting and powerful response to the wars and atrocities of the past five years and specifically to the 7 July bombings in London.
Not having heard any of Pott’s compositions before, I was immediately won over by his 80-minute work. The drama this challenging piece demands is captured by the brilliance of the choir’s performance and Filsell copes with an immensely difficult organ part bringing the work to life with some wonderful registrations.
The text is drawn from a number of sources: The Psalms, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Traherne and the modern Greek poet Odysseus Elytis, creating a powerful voice to demonstrate the conflict and instability of an uneasy world. The emotion is perceptively displayed without any sentimentalism by the superb Vasari Singers, who treat the quieter sections with complete sensitivity.
There are two CDs and the second opens with the brilliant James Gilchrist setting the scene and ambience as he skilfully interweaves with the choir. The wonderful, evocative ending is beautifully executed with a hushed reverence as the choir fades away to leave the organ on its own for a few seconds and then cleverly, the recording continues with silence for a little while longer to capture the moment and emphasise the experience. A riveting and outstanding performance and excellent recording.