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Track(s) taken from CDA67976

O Doctor optime

January to February 2003; Brockley; SSATB
author of text
Magnificat Antiphon at First and Second Vespers, Feast of St Thomas Aquinas

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: 3 minutes 52 seconds

Cover artwork: Moonlight Departure (1998) by Richard Crichton (b1935)
Private Collection / Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Australia / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'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 names of four ‘doctors’ of the Western Church, founding fathers of doctrinal thinking, emerged in the early Middle Ages: St Ambrose, St Augustine, St Gregory the Great and St Jerome. Their company has been enlarged over the centuries by the addition of other ecclesiastical authors and pre-eminent theologians, from St Thomas Aquinas during the time of the Council of Trent to St Thérèse of Lisieux in the late 1990s. The Roman Catholic liturgy includes an Office of Doctors, complete with the antiphon to the Magnificat at Vespers, O Doctor optime. The antiphon’s text can be emended to carry the name of any given Doctor of the Church. Jackson’s O Doctor optime enlists and adapts aspects of medieval practice, a tenor cantus firmus carrying the Gregorian plainsong appropriate to the Office prominent among them. Silence introduces richer, deeper textures, supported by five homophonic voice parts that chart the ebb and flow of a heartfelt plea to God’s son.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013

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