Notes and Editorial Reviews
In the gloomy sky of a winter’s night a bright star emerges and ignites Advent’s anticipation of the Nativity –the year moves towards the rebirth of light just at the time of greatest darkness. With evocative works by the Baroque master Dietrich Buxtehude and the circle of 17th-century northern German composers around him, Paul Hillier conducts his Grammy award-winning ensemble Theatre of Voices in a stimulating addition to the traditional Christmas repertoire. Theatre of Voices, widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost vocal groups, was founded by Paul Hillier in 1990 and re-established in Denmark when he moved to that country in 2004. The group presents a wide range of contemporary music, often juxtaposed with elements of early music. Their programs feature many of today’s most eminent composers - Berio, Pärt, Reich, Cage, Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Stockhausen - while among their current favourite ‘early’ composers are Perotin, Dowland, and Buxtehude.
This latest exploration of Buxtehude and his circle from Paul Hillier and the Theatre of Voices is a joyful, festive program divided into four sections, with each one containing a work by Buxtehude, at least one substantial motet by a related composer and an organ solo. It was recorded in the warm acoustic of Garnisonskirken, Copenhagen.
The last motet, Ab Oriente venerunt Magi by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) is Theatre of Voices at their level best: tender, blended, and deliciously phrased. If you are looking for the Christmas disc of 2017, here it is.