Please wait...

Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Track(s) taken from CDA67580
Recording details: January 2006
Temple Church, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: January 2007
Total duration: 3 minutes 31 seconds

'Lauridsen's Mid-Winter Songs unfolds as an astutely constructed choral symphony, with bouncy asymmetrical rhythms and lusty choral writing leading to a meditative fadeout. Les chanson des roses is a polyphonic delight that strategically delays the entry of the piano until the very end. Lively, confident performances' (Choir & Organ)

'What more can one say of the singing other than that it is Polyphony? This ensemble—surely one of the best small choirs now before the public—invests everything it sings with insight, crisp ensemble and tonal warmth' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This is a spectacular cycle, graced by some sensational singing' (International Record Review)

'This second, secular anthology is, if anything finer than its predecessor, elevated by the heavenly work of all concerned with its making, and the compelling eloquence of Lauridsen's sublime music … Polyphony’s love for words and music register with unwavering conviction … Stephen Layton's grasp of the polished idiom and his innate musicianship crown this essential release, which under his direction speaks directly to the heart' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Stephen Layton's splendiferous disc—the second of Lauridsen's music by these performers—should be on the shelf of each and every choral-music aficionado' (Fanfare, USA)

'This recording is a fine example of Polyphony's exquisite range and Stephen Layton's still in maintaining the balance between voices and ensemble' (HMV Choice)

'A disc that is filled with lovely music. Performances are excellent. Anyone who is interested in the best of choral music of our time will treasure this disc' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'This is a superb issue, with the engineers capturing the full sonority of the choir, orchestra and soloists to perfection and with diction being as clear as crystal throughout' (MusicWeb International)

'This is celestial and spine-tingling stuff. Contemporary choral music really doesn't come any better than this' (Daily Express)

'There could be few choirs better equipped than Polyphony to bring his music to life, with their pure sound and lively musicianship … the recent Ave, dulcissima Maria is for a capella male chorus and searingly beautiful. The final Nocturnes is a triptych of settings of Rilke, Pablo Neruda and James Agee … all three brimful of the exquisite beauty that is Lauridsen's special possession' (Manchester Evening News)

'This is great stuff, and it's given its best imaginable realization by Stephen Layton and his crack vocal ensemble Polyphony … the sound, recorded in two different London churches in 2006, has a pleasing resonance that preserves the essential detail among the voices while offering proper balance with the instruments. For choral—and especially Lauridsen—fans, neglecting this disc is not an option' (ClassicsToday.com)

'It is no surprise to learn of the composer’s devotion to music of both the Medieval and Renaissance periods; his command of the (at times) very complicated polyphonic textures is second-to-none as is the creation of the seemingly never-ending melodic lines … if this isn't a masterpiece of late-twentieth-century choral-writing I don't know what is! From a choir as good as Polyphony (and wow, is it good in this piece!) everything falls perfectly into place—fervent, passionate singing of fervent, passionate music, superb diction, perfectly judged climaxes and a range of colours that stands as an example of how choral music should be sung!' (ClassicalSource.com)

'I hold these truths to be self-evident: 1) Rainer Maria Rilke was a genius. 2) Morten Lauridsen is a genius. 3) Lauridsen’s a cappella setting of Rilke’s Contre qui, rose is one of the most singularly beautiful pieces of vocal music in the history of Western Civilization. 4) Polyphony’s new Hyperion recording of Contre qui, rose is a Record To Die For. (The rest of the disc isn’t too shabby, either' (Stereophile)

'Morten Lauridsen (b1943 is at present considered to be the brightest star in the American choral firmament and rightly so. He is a perfectionist who commands an outstanding technique, and is able to create elegantly-finished works of art that radiate with the glow of what is truly right and inevitable. The composer's craftsmanship further leads to an amazing balance between the contemporary and the timeless. Doubtless this disc also attests to Lauridsen's superb ability to write for choral voices while creating those atmospheric sounds which bring a feeling of inner peace to even the most unwilling ear. In this recording, the composer uses predominantly secular texts, emphasising most strongly his passionate devotion to poetry and the performances are no less riveting. Stephen Layton marshals his choral and orchestral forces to telling effect and both singers and players display that austere discipline which is so vital to produce a blended and cohesive sound and do justice to Lauridsen's harmonic language. Sound, presentation and annotations are as usual, of the highest standards' (Classical.net)

'This sumptuous CD by the English vocal ensemble Polyphony, under the direction of Stephen Layton. Their glorious sound and subtle interpretations do complete justice to Lauridsen's scores, including the Mid-Winter Songs, Les chansons des roses and the brand-new, rapturous Nocturnes, of which this disc is the premiere recording. The Polyphony performances make it clear why Lauridsen is today's preeminent choral composer; you'll hear every nuance of voicing and harmony, enveloped by a choral sound that is shaped by a masterly hand, with quicksilver changes and contrasts. The Britten Sinfonia is featured in the Mid-Winter Songs; the other works are a cappella, sung here at a standard against which all subsequent choral recordings should be judged' (The Seattle Times, USA)

'Nocturnes creates a complex and strange beauty that doesn't sound like any other composer. Yet for all its musical intricacy, the work has a direct and powerful emotional impact—not the impact of a scream, but of an intimate whisper that cuts right through you. Listening to these pieces repeatedly, I find my tough, old heart filled with both wonder and gratitude' (The Slate, USA)

'You know something's up when two of the highest-profile and most honored American composers of serious choral music keep getting onto planes and heading to England to have their work recorded' (CNN)

Nocturnes
First line:
Si je pourrais avec mes mains brūlantes
composer
2005

Introduction  EnglishFranēaisDeutsch
With the Nocturnes (2005) Lauridsen undertook a particularly difficult formal challenge: to compose an integrated choral cycle that was simultaneously a triptych while allowing each of the panels to be performed separately. Displaying the same contrapuntal dexterity and using the same techniques of motivic interrelationship as the Mid-Winter Songs and Les chansons des roses, the Nocturnes are unusual within Lauridsen’s œuvre. Unlike either of the choral cycles featured on his disc, both of which use the work of a single poet, Lauridsen has here anthologized the verse of three twentieth-century poets, each of a different nationality: the German Rainer Maria Rilke, the Chilean Pablo Neruda, and the American James Agee. To ensure unity of conception amid this poetic diversity, the composer has cannily chosen three poems in which there are shared themes: night, romantic love and pantheistic rapture.

In the first of the Nocturnes, Sa nuit d’été, Lauridsen draws again upon the body of Rilke’s French poetry. Unlike the meditative inwardness of Les chansons des roses, however, the mood of Sa nuit d’été, established at once with rich harmonic structures in the piano, is one of sensual abandonment to the beauty of a starry night. (A glance at the composer’s sketches reveals how meticulously he plotted the vertiginous eight-part contrapuntal climax of this ecstatic work.) The second movement is a musical translation of Pablo Neruda’s great love sonnet, Soneto de la noche. While the first and third movements of the Nocturnes have prominent piano parts, Lauridsen emphasizes the intimacy of Neruda’s romantic poem by scoring it for unaccompanied chorus. Here the music is reminiscent of a quietly passionate Chilean folk melody, varied by Lauridsen with great delicacy and unobtrusive skill; the subtle phrase extensions found in this movement could be descendants of those in Scarlatti’s more meditative sonatas. The final panel of this triptych is a heartrendingly lovely interpretation of James Agee’s famous poem Sure on this shining night. In this evocation of the quiet consummation of a summer night—for both the opening and closing movements of the Nocturnes express differing degrees of aestival exultation—the luminous sonorities of the piano surround the intertwining voices with a halo of mellow resonance. Thus the Nocturnes conclude with a pantheistic benediction, brimful with deep emotion, which serves as a fitting conclusion to this midsummer pilgrimage.

from notes by Byron Adams © 2007

Show: MP3 FLAC ALAC
   English   Français   Deutsch