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Nox Lucis – The Night of Light - Medieval Chants for Christmas
Ave Maria, invitatory [1:23]; Joseph fili David, antiphon [2:29]; Ad te levavi, introit and psalm [5:56]; Beata es virgo Maria, offertory [2:47]; Puer natus est, introit [3:19]; Quando natus est, antiphon [1:38]; Alleluia. Post partum, alleluia [3:48]; O florens rosa, antiphon [2:29]; Kyrie, trope [5:24]; Hodie Xpistus natus est, antiphon [4:13]; Benedicamus devotis mentibus, verside [1:57]; Christe redemptor omnium,  hymn [5:15]; Angeli, archangeli,  antiphon [3:05]; Trina celi, hymn [4:26]; Ex ore infantium,  introit [4:08]; Ave clara stella, sequence [8:44]
Vox Silentii (Johanna Korhonen, Hilkka-Liisa Vuori)
rec. Sauvo-Koruna Church, Finland, 8–10 May 2006
PROPRIUS PRSACD 2038 [63:19]


Among the deluge of Christmas discs, Nox Lucis, stands out – not through spectacular arrangements and flashy melodies but through low-voiced intimacy and stillness. The wonders of the first Christmas night are retold straightforwardly, even artlessly, but every word, every syllable is weighed on golden scales. There is no highlighting of important words, no underlining of phrases – it is just the old story told again; we listen, amazed at what we already knew. But it is not only a matter of rejoicing in what happened at Bethlehem 2000 years ago; “we must also acknowledge the presence of fear, darkness and death”, as Johanna Korhonen and Hilkka-Liisa Vuori, who constitute Vox Silentii, write in the booklet.

All the songs are from original Finnish sources from the period 1200–1500. Several come from the Brigittine Sisters’ office. Recorded in surround sound in the warm acoustics of the Sauvo-Karuna Church, just outside Turku in south-west Finland, we become enveloped in the proceedings and the light voices rise towards the ceiling and create Christmas magic. As was the norm in medieval church music they sing in unison. That said it sometimes seems that the voices are multi-layered to create a larger sound. In some places there is also a drone to provide simple two-part harmonies.

Listeners attuned to the sounds of modern day society with wide dynamic contrasts, consummate harmonies, aggressive performances, will probably, after a while at least, get a feeling of sameness: tempos are invariably slow, dynamics seldom rise above mezzo-forte, if that. The melodies mostly progress in small intervals and the monody, apart from the occasional drone, excludes harmonic tension. On the credit side is a stillness, a peacefulness that after a while transports the listener to a state of trance - a feeling of liberation, of seeing the light.

As always with Proprius the presentation is exemplary with an essay in three languages and the sung texts, in the Swedish translation, giving references to the appropriate Bible passages.

All in all this is a disc that functions as a corrective to the stressful world that surrounds us, one to return to for peace and contemplation.

Göran Forsling


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