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Hyperion Records

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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

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
'Lauridsen: Lux aeterna' (SACDA67449)
Lauridsen: Lux aeterna
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