Te Deum. Sancta Maria. Koma. To Thee, Lord of Heaven and
Earth. Benedicte. Verses to the Blessed Virgin. Psalm 121. Thou, God, all-knowing
art , and kind. Hear, Heaven's Maker.
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Thorkell Sigurbjornsson was born in Reykjavik in 1936 and has composed a
very great deal of music in all genres. The choral tradition is here represented
by nine works here mainly of a Roman Catholic persuasion and is a welcome
addition to the repertoire. The Te Deum is unusual. It is given a gentle
composition as opposed to the usual grand laudatory realisation by composers
such as Walton whose Coronation Te Deum is a neglected gem. I do like very
much this Icelandic Te Deum. It has a wonderful atmopshere of reverence without
austerity. Its simplicity of utterance and diatonic style makes it quite
endearing. Perhaps the music being on the same volume range throughout and
the extended use of repeated notes may not appeal to everyone but I found
it refreshing. The use of the harp as an accompaniment makes us aware that
worship need not be shackled to convention.
It is not my place to preach in my reviews but this piece reminds of the
New Testament teaching that Our God is a gentle God.
The Sancta Maria does recall plainchant and has a greater tonal contrast
and was deeply moving although its simplicity may be a little banal to some
people. To my mind, this reverence without cliches is highly commendable.
Koma, or Coming, is rather more advanced. It has some very telling moments
but the limitations of tonal contrast within the piece may hinder it. Slow
unaccompanied choral music can become tedious. There is one splendid and
beautifully controlled climax but the work is a too long to sustain the thematic
material. The tessituras are quietly thrilling.
The hymn To Thee, Lord of Earth suggested a hymn of praise and a quicker
tempo and some music of vitality. It is not that but very direct.
Verses to the Blessed Virgin also has a direct approach and is often very
evocative. the Psalm 121 introduces some welcome contrast but I cannot see
how the music gels with the words of great optimism.
It is always difficult to listen to music of the same style and forces for
over a hour without some adverse and perhaps unfair conclusions. With this
music it is that it is all predominantly slow and even the sheer beauty of
the singing dissipates after a while. This raises a problem that perhaps
discs should not be confined to one composer particularly when his music
represented ploughs the same furrow
But this disc has it moments.. and very beautiful ones, too.