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Track(s) taken from CDA67976

The Voice of the Bard

First line:
Hear the voice of the Bard
8-29 October 2007; Brockley; SATB divisi; commissioned by the BBC for the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year; first performed on 5 December 2007 in Glaziers Hall, London, conducted by James Davey
author of text
from Songs of Experience

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: 6 minutes 35 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

BBC Singers, David Hill (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)
The Voice of the Bard, written in October 2007, demonstrates the power of what Jackson calls ‘abrupt editing’. The imperative command of William Blake’s text is announced initially by sopranos, altos and tenors in unison octaves, giving voice to an opening section that evokes the rhythmic exuberance of fourteenth-century Ars Nova polyphony and setting out motivic material that recurs in modified form throughout the piece. Blake’s poetic imagery is shot through with allusions to the ‘two contrary states of the human soul’, named in his 1794 anthology of Songs as Innocence and Experience, the playful freedom of the former suppressed by the latter’s rules of conformity, emotional reserve and corruption. The Bard, whether Blake himself or his fictional alter ego, calls on the ‘lapsed soul’, the man or woman of experience, to reject the ‘Holy Word’ heard since the time of the Garden of Eden and take full command of a benighted world. Jackson’s setting articulates the contrasts and revels in the ambiguities of Blake’s symbolism: he leaves his audience to decide whether the Bard is a true visionary, the herald of transformational change, or the latest to join the snaking line of false prophets.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013

Other albums featuring this work

Jackson: Airplane Cantata & other choral works
SIGCD381Download only
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