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Track(s) taken from CDA67976

Sanctum est verum lumen

April to June 2005; Brockley; 40vv; commissioned by the Lichfield Festival and first performed by Ex Cathedra under Jeffrey Skidmore in Lichfield Cathedral on 15 July 2005
author of text
Antiphon at First Vespers, Feast of All Saints

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: 7 minutes 54 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)
Music as sounding number occupied the minds of medieval music theorists and composers. Cassiodorus, the sixth-century Roman prefect and philosopher, outlined the concept in his influential Institutiones, a seminal text for medieval students of the arts. ‘The science of music’, he wrote, ‘is the discipline that deals with those numeric proportions that are found in sounds.’ The idea was still current a thousand years later, when Thomas Tallis created his setting of Spem in alium for a choir of forty voices. Sanctum est verum lumen is Gabriel Jackson’s ‘conscious homage to Tallis’s masterpiece’, a forty-part motet with numerical correspondences and coincidences that reinforce its links to Spem in alium. Sanctum est verum lumen, for example, occupies the same number of bars as Spem (a compositional coincidence), divides its choral forces into eight five-voice choirs (a deliberate formal strategy), and revisits many of the textural devices used by Tallis, from block chords and miniature chorales to shimmering imitative passages for upper voices and forty-part polyphony. Jackson has noted elsewhere that he wanted ‘to write a piece that was essentially about light; the text, though funereal in origin, is radiantly optimistic and invites a variety of ways of evoking that sense of light in music, from gentle luminosity to fiercely dazzling brightness’. The composer directs his multiplicity of light-seeking voices towards a central section, announced by chordal statements of the word ‘lucem’, in which the sense of regular rhythmic pulse is momentarily dissolved by a spate of overlapping choral fragments.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013

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