> LAURIDSEN O Magnum Mysterium [JP]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Morten LAURIDSEN (b.1943 - )
Lux Aeterna (1997) World Premiere Recording
Les Chansons des Roses (1993)
Ave Maria (1997) World Premiere Recording
Mid-Winter Songs Orchestral Version (1990) World Premiere Recording
O Magnum Mysterium

Los Angeles Master Chorale and Sinfonia Orchestra/Paul Salamunovich
Recorded June 9, August 29, 1997, and January 9 & 20 1998, in Sacred Heart Chapel, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. DDD


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This disc is my choral disc of the year! I cannot see how it could be bettered, musically, performance and recording wise. Although it is not available as yet in the UK, I urge you to get it from the U.S. (Amazon.com can supply it by return). You will not regret the investment.

I first heard O Magnum Mysterium (or half of it, I now realise), on a BBC Radio Four programme over Christmas, and being initially impressed with the work, started to hunt it down. Having received the disc and listened to the remainder of the works on the disc, I was completely bowled over. In stylistic terms Lauridsen's music is difficult to describe, but it is tonal, and is a mix between Arvo Pärt and John Rutter, if this makes sense.

Lux Aeterna was inspired by the Brahms Requiem, although there is little similarity in the two pieces, except for the sense of dedication and the use of a slow, deep introduction à la Brahms. There are five movements: Introitus, In Te Domine Speravi, O Nata Lux, Veni Sanctus Spiritus and Agnus Dei - Lux Aeterna. These form roughly the movements of a normal Requiem, and the devotional character is well to the fore, with soaring choral lines which make the hairs on the back of your neck rise up in unison.

With Les Chansons des Roses from 1993, we come to song settings of texts by Rainer Maria Rilke, and the last one "Dirait-on" has become very popular in its own right in the U.S. These settings are for chorus only, with the last one being supplied with piano accompaniment by the composer.

Ave Maria is a one movement work written as a 70th birthday gift to the conductor, and is a serene setting of the religious text. I would have been honoured to receive such a gift, and the performance from the choir is absolutely superb.

Mid-Winter Songs are settings of poems of Robert Graves, taken from his collected works, each having the theme of winter. The work has appeared in various guises, originally for mixed choir and piano, was written in 1981. The first orchestral version, written in 1983, was supplanted by the current version, written in 1990 written for the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Finally we come to O Magnum Mysterium, premiered in 1994 by the current artists. This superb five and a half minute work for solo choir is worth the whole price of the disc. This rounds off an absolutely enthralling disc which I can't imagine any music lover not being moved by.

The Los Angeles Master Chorale with their conductor Paul Salamunovich is made up of some 90 singers, most of whom seem to be fairly young, judging from the fresh, exciting sounds that they make. Apparently, they are the main choir appearing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and I cannot understand why they have yet to release their first disc in the UK.

This superb disc is a must. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
John Phillips


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