Please wait...

Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Why Seek Ye the Living Among the Dead? (1905) by Howard Pyle (1853-1911)
American Illustrators Gallery, NYC / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67449
Recording details: April 2004
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: March 2005
Total duration: 26 minutes 28 seconds

'Exquisitely sung by Polyphony with strong support from the Britten Sinfonia under Stephen Layton' (The Observer)

'The music has freshness and an affecting emotional pull to it that explains its popularity with singers and audiences across the pond. Stephen Layton's Polyphony, whose recent recordings of Pärt, Tavener and others have been revelations of choral singing, brings a comparable firmness, tonal opulence and refinement to this new repertoire, which will undoubtedly gain new admirers as a result' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Conventional choral wisdom suggests that the American Morten Lauridsen is a one-work wonder and certainly O magnum mysterium is wonderful, with vocal lines that arch out like fan vaulting. With this new recording Stephen Layton and Hyperion are clearly out to prove that Lauridsen's gifts are not just for Christmas but for all seasons too … now the jury is back: the choir and Layton have acquitted Morten Lauridsen. Here's a three-, perhaps four-work wonder!' (International Record Review)

'Layton and company have here produced the finest I've heard among several excellent collections of Lauridsen's work. None are quite as exquisitely nuanced or sung with such glowing vocal sheen as this. Clear and shimmering sound, plus Hyperion's usual complete and user-friendly booklet, make it all the more attractive. No committed choral fan or singer will ever regret letting Lauridsen into his life' (American Record Guide)

'Stephen Layton's feel for the inner line and structure melts the heart, as does the impeccable, unforced singing of Polyphony. Their music-making remains in heavenly realms throughout the virtuoso Madrigali: pure choral gold' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Every one of the works on this mesmerising Hyperion release is deliciously lyrical and harmonically sumptuous, but spiced with delicate dissonances that are Lauridsen's signature … every performance here is delivered with liquid perfection' (The Scotsman)

'It's not often I have to brush away the tears when I'm reviewing a recording, but I will happily confess that on this occasion Lauridsen got me again and again. I can't give this disc a higher recommendation than that. Run out and buy it as soon as you can' (Fanfare, USA)

'Above all, these performances by Stephen Layton's Polyphony are breathtakingly beautiful, powerfully expressive without trace of forced sentimentality. Hyperion's Disc of the Month for March should become one of the year's classical hits' (Music Week)

'A flawless, perfectly balanced performance from the British choral group Polyphony, directed by the gifted Stephen Layton, and ably assisted by the Britten Sinfonia. If you love choral music, if you appreciate compositions that lift you from the mundane, you should not miss Lux aeterna' (St Louis-Post Dispatch)

'This Hyperion release is superb and the disc is a must. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have' (Classical Music Web)

'This is compelling and challenging music that deserves wider performance. The world-class ensemble Polyphony has made many first-rate recordings, and this is another—and it will be an immediate acquisition for this composer's growing legions of fans … if you love choral music, Lauridsen's work is required listening' (ClassicsToday.com)

'The sound is very clean, very focused and detailed, and has remarkable sound-stage depth … the bottom line is, if you aren't familiar with Lux aeterna, your life is the poorer for it. You do need a recording of it' (Stereophile)

Lux aeterna
composer
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Lauridsen had pondered the creation of his Lux aeterna for chorus and orchestra for an extended period before the work began to crystallize in 1995. In an uncanny parallel with both Brahms and Fauré, the composition of Lux aeterna was given an added impetus and poignancy when Lauridsen’s mother died as he began to notate his initial ideas for the score. Written especially for the distinguished conductor Paul Salamunovich and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Lux aeterna enjoyed a highly successful premiere on 13 April 1997, and has subsequently been performed by countless choral ensembles.

Like Fauré’s Requiem, Lux aeterna is suffused by warmth and consolation; the composer has written that this is an ‘intimate work of quiet serenity’ that expresses ‘hope, reassurance, faith and illumination in all of its manifestations’. Unlike Fauré, however, Lauridsen did not set out to compose a liturgical work, but rather collated texts from a variety of sacred Latin sources. Unified by an emphasis upon heavenly light, Lux aeterna opens and concludes with lines from the Requiem Mass, while the three central movements are drawn from the Te Deum (with a single line interpolated from the Beatus vir, Psalm 111: 4), O nata lux and Veni, Sancte Spiritus. As London Times critic Hilary Finch has noted, Lux aeterna is a ‘classic of new American choral writing. In this light-filled continuum of sacred texts, old world structures and new world spirit intertwine in a cunningly written score, at once sensuous and spare.’

Cast as five movements performed without pause, Lux aeterna is organized as an extended motet, for each new portion of the text calls forth a different musical response. Strands of complex counterpoint, including a multiplicity of canons and double canons, are interlaced to create the sonorous equivalent of supernal light. In a manner that hearkens back to Dunstable and Taverner, these polyphonic passages are contrasted with sections reminiscent of the homophonic fauxbourdon beloved by Renaissance composers. Lauridsen unifies Lux aeterna in part through a single recurring chord – comprising a D major triad with an added note, E – that becomes a harmonic symbol of the luminous. Just as Palestrina and Victoria vary the disposition of triads in their motets to ensure variety of colour and texture, so Lauridsen constantly reconstitutes this basic luminous sonority, producing an effect at once unified and kaleidoscopic.

Throughout the opening movement of Lux aeterna, the composer creates the effect of musical chiaroscuro by deepening the predominant mood of inner poise and grace with touches of solemnity and inwardness. In the second section of the score, In te, Domine, speravi, the solemn chorale Herzliebster Jesu (from the Nuremberg Songbook of 1677) is introduced as a cantus firmus that underpins the musical discourse as it flows above. This severe chorale casts a shadow over the music that is dispelled by succeeding movement, the radiant O nata lux for a cappella chorus, the text of which is a hymn originally sung during Lauds on the Feast of the Transfiguration. The incandescence of the succeeding section, the hymn Veni, Sancte Spiritus, traditionally chanted at Pentecost Matins, dims gradually into a gentle Agnus Dei that is an introspective prayer for peace. The ecstatic ‘alleluias’ that follow express a joyous sense of acceptance reminiscent of the final words of Thornton Wilder’s novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey: ‘All those impulses of love return to the love that made them … there is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.’

from notes by Byron Adams © 2005

Other albums featuring this work
'High Flight' (SIGCD262)
High Flight
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 48 kHz £7.85ALAC 24-bit 48 kHz £7.85 SIGCD262  Download only   Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Lauridsen: Lux aeterna' (SACDA67449)
Lauridsen: Lux aeterna
This album is not yet available for download SACDA67449  Super-Audio CD — Deleted  
Show: MP3 FLAC ALAC
   English   Français   Deutsch