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
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.