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Track(s) taken from CDA67976

Thomas, Jewel of Canterbury

First line:
Thomas gemma Cantuarie primula
April to May 2004; Brockley
author of text
14th-century English manuscript, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, MS 512

The State Choir Latvija, Māris Sirmais (conductor)
Recording details: March 2010
St John's Church, Riga, Latvia
Produced by Normunds Slava
Engineered by Aivars Stengelis & Normunds Slava
Release date: January 2013
Total duration: 7 minutes 41 seconds

Cover artwork: Moonlight Departure (1998) by Richard Crichton (b1935)
Private Collection / Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Australia / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Other recordings available for download

Gonville and Caius College Choir Cambridge, Geoffrey Webber (conductor)


'Unquestionably the State Choir Latvia is a magnificent body of singers. They encompass a vast dynamic range and deliver words and music with impeccable precision and clarity … they thrill with their rhythmically compelling opening unisons, entice with their delicate chording … and soothe with their lilting harmonic underlay' (Gramophone)

'In The Voice of the Bard, which opens this Gabriel Jackson collection, the State Choir Latvija manages both a bristling ardour in its delivery of the text and a virtuoso response to the vocal demands of the setting … Jackson's long, soothingly lyrical arcs of melody are sensually shaped and executed with impressive corporate unanimity … an incandescent performance of the 40-part motet Sanctum est verum lumen sets the seal on this magnificent demonstration of the art of choral singing' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This disc is, quite simply, full of marvels … any listener will surely react with awe to the sheer splendour and choral daring, both from the composer and from the fabulous choir' (International Record Review)

'All the music is full of interest and is written with what we’ve come to expect from this composer; namely a highly imaginative ear for choral texture, great empathy for the human voice and tremendous responsiveness to texts. It’s hard—nay, impossible—to imagine these pieces receiving finer advocacy than they receive from the superb Latvian choir, who give one of the most memorable exhibitions of unaccompanied choral singing that I’ve heard for some time. If you factor in also that the recorded sound is splendid and the documentation up to Hyperion’s usual excellent standards then this disc can only be regarded as a pretty compelling proposition' (MusicWeb International)
Early Protestant reformers, for all their iconoclasm, stopped short of destroying much of Canterbury Cathedral’s medieval fabric and many of its moveable treasures. They were not so protective of the ancient monastic institution’s library of sacred polyphony, of which little more than a dozen fragments have survived. The imaginary soundworld of pre-Reformation Canterbury remains vivid in Gabriel Jackson’s mind, however, informed by his formative years as a chorister in the cathedral’s choir, an abiding affinity for the ritual delivery of music within a sacred space and close study of medieval musica practica, the craft of composition. Thomas, Jewel of Canterbury, to a text recorded in an early fourteenth-century Cambridge manuscript, deals creatively with the distant musical past and its modern interpretation. The motet presents complex layers of melodic ornamentation above near-static sustained notes. Jackson recalls the florid style of late twelfth-century Parisian organum, especially as reinvented since the early 1980s by Marcel Pérès and his Ensemble Organum, interwoven with traces of plainchant, unmeasured melody and monumental eight-part chords, sounded at the work’s beginning and shortly before its end.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013

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