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Hyperion Records

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Good Friday (2002) by Maggi Hambling (b1945)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67796
Recording details: April 2010
All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: March 2011
Total duration: 10 minutes 23 seconds

'Ešenvalds displays an impressive command and variety of musical language … soloist, choir and strings are first-rate' (Choir & Organ)

'Ešenvalds responds to the purpose of the words he sets, occupying similar choral territory to the likes of Whitacre and Shchedrin, character rather than ego dominating … Ešenvalds favours the upper voices, giving them luminous, floating melodies against backgrounds that set them in shimmering relief or throw mysterious, penumbrous cloaks around them. Polyphony typically balances beauty of timbre with precise articulation and empathy with the texts' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Within seconds I knew I was going to adore this CD and the music of Eriks Ešenvalds … this is a performance of considerable impact, not least in the second movement when the electrifying choral cries of 'Crucify' dissolve so magically into calm, plainchant-inspired music above which Carolyn Sampson floats with angelic luminosity … if the music wasn't so utterly gorgeous, I would happily devote several hundred words to praising Stephen Layton for these totally absorbing performances. Along with Polyphony, he set the benchmark long ago, and while this is as good as anything they've ever committed to disc, the real praise here has to be reserved for Eriks Ešenvalds, whose music clearly warrants a great deal more exposure' (International Record Review)

Legend of the walled-in woman
author of text
Albanian folksong
author of text
translator of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The winning entry in the Young Composers category of the 2006 International Rostrum for Composers Competition, Legend of the walled-in woman memorializes an Albanian woman and a kind of (involuntary) sacrifice for the greater good, in this case the rather less earth-shattering matter of the survival of a castle in northern Albania which was built by three brothers to protect themselves from Roman and Greek invaders. According to the legend, their mother had a dream that, in order to prevent the castle from being mysteriously destroyed every night, one of them would have to offer his wife as a sacrifice. Two brothers warned their wives about the dream but the third did not; the next day she set off for the castle to bring them food, and there she was immured inside the foundations.

Like Passion and Resurrection, the work begins with an objet trouvé—in this case an Albanian folksong that is the source of the legend. Again, with its strange ululations and glissandi, its ornamentation and keening repetitions, the folksong is immediately established as an alien musical presence. Similarly, the story is told not as a straightforward narrative, but through ellipsis; the piece is not dramatic but contemplative. Its structure is simple: three times material from the original folksong (sung by a solo quintet at a distance) is followed by a setting of the same words for the full choir. The texture is characteristically sonorous, with multiple divisi; the harmony is tonal, invigorated by passing dissonances, the tessitura wide, as intertwined upper voices soar above more slow-moving deeply rooted lower parts. In an extended coda polyphony dissolves into homophony: tolling, incantatory chords create a static pulsation that underscores plaintive wisps of melody from one, then two solo sopranos, who intone (in English) an epitaph for the walled-in woman. Gradually tendrils of folksong are re-woven into the texture, their tonality finally reconciled with that of the choir, as the music recedes into silence.

from notes by Gabriel Jackson © 2011

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