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Track(s) taken from CDA67976

Ave regina caelorum

July to August 2008; Brockley; SATB + electric guitar; commissioned by the International Guitar Foundation, The Sixteen and Kings Place, and first performed to celebrate the opening of Kings Place, London, in 2008
author of text
Antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the Feast of the Purification until the Wednesday in Holy Week
author of text

The State Choir Latvija, Māris Sirmais (conductor), Kaspars Zemītis (electric guitar)
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: 12 minutes 27 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)
A medieval prayer, Christina Rossetti’s verse for the Feast of the Annunciation, the resourceful sounds of electric guitar, and choral polyphony of unbridled virtuosity coalesce with remarkable integrity in Ave regina caelorum. There is no sense here of bright creative ideas being forced to conform to the limits of a narrow Procrustean bed; rather, Jackson’s composition celebrates the distinctive qualities of his chosen solo instrument and develops them in a felicitous partnership with contrasting vocal textures and timbres. Shades of Ernie Isley and Eric Clapton sweep over the guitar’s solo outbreaks, together with the twangy sounds of a ‘chicken scratch’ dance riff (as accompaniment to the choir’s ‘Ave domina angelorum’), erotic note bends and seductive glissandos. As so often in his work, Jackson establishes intimacy through the simplicity of his melodic language while building transcendent grandeur through the ingenuity of his part-writing. Jacksonian jouissance leaps from the page with the arrival of the composition’s central ‘Gaude virgo’, the pleasure of which is ultimately spent in an ecstatic guitar cadenza and set in relief by the unaccompanied choir’s four-part close harmonization of ‘Vale, o valde decora’. Although the piece was first performed at the opening of London’s Kings Place concert hall in 2008, its natural habitat must surely be a Byzantine basilica or the fan-vaulted choir of a great cathedral.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013

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