Notes and Editorial Reviews
There's some terrific choral music on this disc! Beginning with Jonathan Dove's (b. 1959) Seek him that maketh the seven stars, listeners are in for an hour of (mostly) exciting, engaging, imaginative, inspired, even revelatory performances of English choral works written within the last 10 or 15 years. The professional vocal ensemble Tenebrae (whose concerts feature candlelight and choreography) is completely in command of these often difficult scores, and the engineering is ideal, capturing the fullness of the space (Temple Church, London) without sacrificing detail or balance--especially impressive in the pieces with choir and organ.
Dove's piece--one of the choir/organ selections--is an ear-pleasing marvel of
color, catchy rhythmic effects, and delightfully scaled organ ostinatos, the work of a significant and highly accomplished composer who deserves wide attention. Another in this category is Francis Pott (b. 1957), who contributes two of the disc's more substantial works, The souls of the righteous and My song is love unknown, the latter a nearly 18-minute, highly dramatic setting of Samuel Crossman's poem (which even begins with a nod to Richard Strauss' Death and transfiguration). Giles Swayne's version of the Magnificat (which has received attention on previous recordings) is the most wild and oddly effective ever conceived--a double-choir setting that somehow combines the familiar Latin text with "Zulu warrior chant" and jerky repeated rhythmic patterns that soon draw you into their infectious dance.
Alexander L'Estrange (who's also active as a singer and jazz bassist!) contributes a unique and very affecting take on the oft-set Lute-book lullaby text. Organist/composer Jeremy Filsell's O be joyful in the Lord is a relentless, high-energy tour de force (not unexpectedly with a significant organ part) that doesn't let up for its entire two minutes and 16 seconds--ending with a voice busting super-fortissimo blast. Richard Rodney Bennett adds a beautiful, mostly serene setting of a John Donne meditation whose harmonically rich choral texture is broken by a lovely, brief tenor solo at its center and near the end. Tavener's Mother and child, commissioned by Tenebrae in 2003, sits in the middle of the program--and it's the only point of boredom. It's basically an exercise in interminable chord progressions that might have been interesting had it been more honestly scaled to the real worth of the musical ideas--say, three minutes instead of nearly 13. The intrusion of a "large Hindu temple gong" toward the work's end sounds more like a gimmick--but undoubtedly I'm just missing some profound message that others will easily grasp. No matter. This is a wonderful disc, a program that all choral lovers should hear, not least because it gives proof that very fine sacred choral music is still being written--and given the first-rate attention it deserves by world-class performers.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Magnificat by Giles Swayne
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1982; England
Lute-book Lullaby by Alexander L'Estrange
Mother and Child by John Tavener
Period: 20th Century
Written: 2002; England
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