Notes and Editorial Reviews
Morten Lauridsen has been very fortunate in his treatment by choirs and record labels. Part of the reason is because his music is just so sonorous, singable, and sellable. But, sticking with the alliteration, it's also "serious" in the sense that his style seems to come from a genuine and personal conviction rather than from some external, commercial or image-driven influence. His music is functional, if you want it to be, but it also serves very well as pure concert material, and the three choral cycles Lux Aeterna, Les Chansons des Roses, and Madrigali have achieved a degree of success in that role. I've commented in detail regarding Lauridsen's style in previous reviews, and you can find such a description by typing Q8554 in Search Reviews, which refers to a Hyperion recording by Stephen Layton and Polyphony that duplicates two-thirds of the program presented here.
It takes only a few minutes of listening to discern some of the primary features--some would say "formulaic traits"--characteristic of Lauridsen's more popular works, exemplified in O magnum mysterium and the Lux aeterna cycle. But it's hard not to luxuriate along with the choir in the rich-textured sound and affectingly simple melodic phrases. The work here that's not on the Polyphony recording is the choral cycle Les Chansons des Roses. Premiered in 1993, the five songs are set to poems about roses by Rainer Maria Rilke. The final one, Dirait-on (here with the composer at the piano), has become a concert favorite, but the others are equally worthy of attention by accomplished choirs. The Lux Aeterna cycle is a masterpiece of Lauridsen's kind of choral sonority and word-setting, the organ accompaniment a perfect complement to the singers' "organ-like" textures and timbres.
My only real criticism of Polyphony's performances (that disc also includes Ave Maria and Ubi caritas et amor) was its dreadfully slow reading of Lauridsen's now-ubiquitous O magnum mysterium, which retained the resonance of the harmonies but sapped the energy from the long, flowing phrases. Well, if I thought that version was slow, Nicol Matt and his Chamber Choir of Europe--unquestionably one of the world's top-tier ensembles--had a surprise in store: this one is nearly a quarter of a minute longer! Aside from some sort of odd competition (the score clearly, wisely, indicates a much faster tempo), I can't understand the purpose for the snail's pace, notwithstanding the fact that it's effortlessly sung. At any rate, this is another excellent Lauridsen program that will please choral enthusiasts and hopefully will expand this composer's reach to listeners who still haven't made his acquaintance. The sound, from two different church venues in Germany, is very good if a touch bright and weighted toward treble at louder volume on some tracks. [11/9/2006]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com