INTO LIGHT • Musica Intima • ATMA ACD2 2613 (60:14)
RAMINSH Ave verum corpus. SCHAFER 3 Hymns. LANG Agneau de Dieu. VIVIER Jesus erbarme dich. MORLOCK Exaudi. LANG Earth TeachRead more Me. HEALEY Salish Song. Inuit Hunting Song. SLED Ice. RYAN On Monsieur’s Departure. SHARMAN Love. DAUNAIS Le Pont Mirabeau
This is the fifth Atma Classique CD from Canadian chamber choir Musica Intima. I’ve heard three of its four predecessors. All of them are gorgeous, but this one surpasses them in beauty and profundity. This is music and these are performances that one could lose oneself in.
This program derives from the choir’s 2006 performances at the Polyfollia festival in France, in which it was asked to limit itself to North American repertoire. As a result, this is the first of its CDs to contain music solely by Canadian composers. There was a time when this might have made even some Canadians cringe, but none of the music on this CD needs special pleading. Stylistically, there is a lot of variety. The works by Imant Raminsh, Rodney Sharman, and Lionel Daunais, for example, recollect those by Morten Lauridsen. Harmonically conservative and quiet, they nevertheless achieve an emotional intensity that miraculously feels all out of proportion to the means used. Claude Vivier’s Jesus erbarme dich is more daring in the way that the text and its setting interact. Exaudi, by Jocelyn Morlock, reaches a painful climax with the assistance of a solo cello, here played by Ariel Barnes. The two selections by Derek Healey come from his set of Six Canadian Folk Songs, and treat traditional material in an imaginative and highly evocative manner. Ice, by Bruce Sled, is wordless, save for the syllables “ah” and “da.” Possibly the most avant-garde work on this CD, it nevertheless remains very approachable, in its imitation of the slow melting of a lake at the end of winter. (Ligeti did something similar with icicles, as I recall.) By the time this CD is over, you will feel that you have gone on an eventful journey through many emotional states and physical environments.
This SATB ensemble is composed of just 12 singers. Founded in Vancouver in 1992, it remains one of Canada’s most astonishing musical exports. Intonation and tonal blend are well nigh perfect. These are singers who clearly have spent their adult lives examining and perfecting the mechanics of singing in order to produce an experience that is both technically and artistically unsurpassed. Given the choir’s size, there is no place for its members to hide during performances and recordings. It isn’t enough for them to listen to each other; they practically need to become telepathic with each other. On this CD, as on its predecessors, that has been achieved. The miracle is that we, as listeners, then become part of that telepathic network, through the concentration of the singing.
There’s a lot of schlocky choral music going around these days. There is nothing schlocky, however, about Musica Intima and Into Light. If you want to be amazed, give it a try.