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Hyperion Records

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Ely Cathedral (detail) by Thomas Lound (1802-1861)
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67629
Recording details: January 2007
Ely Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: October 2007
Total duration: 3 minutes 49 seconds

'Peace and goodwill would be the order of the day if Father Christmas could hand out to all and sundry copies of Polyphony's recording of the Bruckner's Mass in E minor. No disc I've heard this year comes near it for sheer beauty … Polyphony, whose sound is … smoothly rounded, fully blended and sumptuous … Layton produces such gorgeous sounds from his singers that the overall listening experience is infinitely satisfying … the seven unaccompanied motets are absolute gems. An ethereal account of Ave Maria has a breadth and grandeur which belies its short time-span; as the vocal lines crowd in on each other, the effect is nothing short of electrifying. And popular as it is, if there has to be a 'definitive' interpretation on disc of Locus iste, this has to be it. Put it simply, we're unlikely to hear choral singing as fine as this for a good few years to come' (Gramophone)

'This really excellent offering from Polyphony … Polyphony trumps all others for beauty of tone … in the Benedictus, too, musical sense arises from transparency and intelligent phrasing … the performances of the motets are excellent, too, painting nuanced pictures of these vocally and philosophically stratospheric pieces' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia catch the music's starkness, exaltation and mysticism as movingly as I have heard. This is a searching performance, with soft singing of awed intensity, but also an unusually dramatic one. Stephen Layton never allows Bruckner's music, even at its most unearthly, to become becalmed; and he builds climaxes of molten intensity in, say, the Sanctus, or the fervent motet Christus factus est. A glorious disc of music that strives for, and ultimately attains, a state of transcendent peace' (The Daily Telegraph)

'I wasn’t prepared for the excellence of this program … the musicianship is so sophisticated, so meticulous that it’s impossible not to get swept up in what the singers are doing … what really captures my attention is the spectrum of vocal colors these singers create in pianissimo range … Maestro Layton’s performances inspire the soul even as they break the heart with their intense beauty' (American Record Guide)

'This album finds the composer secure in his spiritual home, serving God in music transcendent. Stephen Layton's reading of the Second Mass articulates sublime, prayer-like qualities routinely overlooked and underplayed by others. The approach … is revelatory, rich in contrasts, fervent outbursts and symphonic tension … an outstanding release' (Classic FM Magazine)

'The performance is strong and characterful: beautifully sung by Polyphony and subtly, imaginatively accompanied by the Britten Sinfonia's wind band … the group sing with ravishing, lustrous tone throughout and phrase and colour magnificently. Their dynamic and dramatic range is great and tension is continually racked up under the baton of Stephen Layton, though never at the expense of vocal purity, profundity of expression or dignity of delivery' (MusicOHM.com)

Virga Jesse floruit
composer
1885; dedicated to Ignaz Traumihler, Regens Chori of St Florian; 4vv
author of text
Alleluia at the Feast of the Annunciation

Other recordings available for download
Corydon Singers, Matthew Best (conductor)
St Paul's Cathedral Choir, John Scott (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The symphonic Bruckner again finds echo in miniature in Virga Jesse floruit of 1885, especially in the magnificent climax that builds in imitative sequences on the phase ‘pacem Deus reddidit’—another very Brucknerian transformation of the ‘Dresden Amen’ from Parsifal. Harmonically this motet journeys far, until the coda stabilizes in E major, culminating in a surprisingly jaunty sequence of alleluias from the tenors (the last marked ‘falsetto’—possibly a whimsical representation of the reconciliation of ‘high’ and ‘low’ in the text).

from notes by Stephen Johnson © 2007


Other albums featuring this work
'Advent at St Paul's' (CDH55463)
Advent at St Paul's
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55463  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Bruckner: motets' (CDA66062)
Bruckner: motets

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