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Track(s) taken from CDA67580

Mid-Winter Songs

1980, orchestrated 1983
author of text

Polyphony, Britten Sinfonia, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Recording details: April 2006
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: January 2007
Total duration: 19 minutes 1 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' (Classics Today)

'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!' (Classical Source)

'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)
Literary insight and musical inspiration are fused in Lauridsen’s Mid-Winter Songs (1980, orchestrated 1983). For this cycle, Lauridsen’s voracious reading led him to the poetry of the British poet and novelist Robert Graves. To select poems for the Mid-Winter Songs, Lauridsen read—and reread—the complete corpus of Graves’s verse. The composer has testified that he was ‘much taken with the elegance, richness and extraordinary beauty of [Graves’s] poetry and his insights regarding the human experience’. Lauridsen chose verse inspired by the poet’s obsession with his colourful mistress and muse Laura Riding, as well as poetry that reflected the measure of tranquility that Graves attained with his second wife, Beryl.

With the Mid-Winter Songs, Lauridsen boldly reinvented the ‘choral cycle’, imbuing this genre with unwonted emotional depth, formal sophistication and thematic consistency. Thus the Mid-Winter Songs constitute a five-movement choral symphony that evinces a virtuosic degree of integration: all of the main melodic motives developed throughout this score are announced in the dramatic opening measures. Designed as a Bogenform (‘arch form’), the Mid-Winter Songs possess an inner formal logic that does not preclude soaring lyricism—or searing expressivity, as in the opening movement, the harrowing Lament for Pasiphaë.

After the incandescent anguish of this opening lament, the second movement, Like Snow, is a madrigal-like scherzo whose references to winter aptly conjure up that icy icon of Graves’ romantic life, Laura Riding. The succeeding slow movement, She tells her love while half asleep, which Lauridsen describes as filled with ‘tenderness and warmth’, is an encomium to the poet’s second wife that forms the score’s emotional and formal climax. A second choral scherzo follows: filled with jazzy syncopations, Mid-Winter Waking conjures the poet’s joy at the reawakening of his inspiration, which is compared to the first thaw that presages the end of winter. The finale, Intercession in Late October, is a quiet prayer, deeply moving in its evident reluctance to return to coldness, both of weather and of the heart. An extended orchestral interlude recapitulates all of the thematic material, but the Mid-Winter Songs end, like several of Lauridsen’s cycles, in a manner at once poignant and unresolved.

from notes by Byron Adams © 2007

Perspicacité littéraire et inspiration musicale fusionnent dans Mid-Winter Songs (1980, orchestrées 1983). À force de dévorer des livres pour ce cycle, Lauridsen en vint à lire, et à relire, tout l’œuvre en vers du poète et romancier britannique Robert Graves—affirmant avoir été «saisi par l’élégance, la richesse et l’extraordinaire beauté de la poésie de Graves et par sa compréhension de l’expérience humaine». Son choix se porta et sur des vers nés de l’obsession du poète pour sa pittoresque maîtresse et muse, Laura Riding, et sur des poèmes reflétant toute la quiétude que Graves atteignit aux côtés de sa seconde épouse, Beryl.

Avec les Mid-Winter Songs, Lauridsen réinventa audacieusement le «cycle choral», insufflant à ce genre une profondeur émotionnelle inhabituelle, alliée à une sophistication formelle et à une cohérence thématique. Aussi les Mid-Winter Songs constituent-ils une symphonie chorale en cinq mouvements, douée d’un degré d’intégration virtuose: tous les grands motifs mélodiques développés au fil de cette partition sont annoncés dans les dramatiques mesures d’ouverture. Conçus comme une Bogenform («forme en arche»), les Mid-Winter Songs ont une logique formelle interne qui n’empêche en rien un lyrisme grandissant—ou une expressivité fulgurante, comme dans le mouvement d’ouverture, le déchirant Lament for Pasiphaë.

La détresse incandescente de cette lamentation est suivie d’un scherzo madrigalesque, Like Snow, dont les références hivernales évoquent à merveille cette icône glaciale de la vie amoureuse de Graves que fut Laura Riding. Le mouvement lent suivant, She tells her love while half asleep, que Lauridsen dit empli de «tendresse et [de] chaleur», est un panégyrique à la seconde épouse du poète, un éloge qui constitue l’apogée émotionnel et formel de la partition. S’ensuit un second scherzo choral (Mid-Winter Waking) qui, gorgé de syncopes jazzy, fait apparaître la joie du poète face à la résurrection de son inspiration, assimilée au premier dégel présageant la fin de l’hiver. Le finale, Intercession in Late October, est une prière paisible, profondément émouvante par sa répugnance manifeste à retrouver la froidure—du climat et du cœur. Enfin, un long interlude orchestral réexpose l’ensemble du matériau thématique, même si les Mid-Winter Songs s’achèvent, comme plusieurs des cycles de Lauridsen, d’une manière à la fois poignante et irrésolue.

extrait des notes rédigées par Byron Adams © 2007
Français: Hyperion Records Ltd

Literarische Einsicht und musikalische Inspiration verschmelzen in Lauridsens Mid-Winter Songs („Mittwinterlieder“, 1980). Lauridsens Lesegier führte ihn für diesen Zyklus zur Dichtung des britischen Poeten und Romanschriftstellers Robert Graves. Zur Auswahl der Gedichte für die Mid-Winter Songs las Lauridsen Graves’ gesamtes dichteres Œuvre mehrmals durch. Der Komponist sagte, dass er „von der Eleganz, dem Reichtum und der außerordentlichen Schönheit von [Graves’] Poesie und seinem Verständnis für menschliche Erfahrungen sehr beeindruckt“ war. Lauridsen wählte Verse, die durch die Besessenheit des Dichters mit seiner charaktervollen Geliebten und Muse Laura Riding inspiriert wurden, sowie Poesie, die den beschaulichen Frieden reflektiert, den er mit seiner zweiten Frau, Beryl, genoss.

Mit den Mid-Winter Songs erfand Lauridsen den „Chorzyklus“ neu und erfüllte dieses Genre mit ungewohnter emotionaler Tiefe, Komplexität der Form und thematischer Einheitlichkeit. Die Mid-Winter Songs bilden eine fünfsätzige Chorsymphonie, die einen virtuosen Grad von Integration aufweist: alle melodischen Hauptmotive, die im Verlauf der Partitur entwickelt werden, werden in den dramatischen Anfangstakten eingeführt. In Bogenform angelegt, besitzen die Mid-Winter Songs eine formale innere Logik, die beflügelte Lyrik—oder glühende Expressivität wie im Anfangssatz, dem erschütternden Lament for Pasiphaë („Lamento für Pasiphae“)—nicht ausschließt.

Dem glühenden Schmerz dieses einleitenden Lamentos folgt Like Snow („Wie Schnee“) als zweiter Satz, ein madrigalhaftes Scherzo, dessen Hinweise auf den Winter Laura Riding, die frostige Ikone in Graves’ Liebesleben treffend heraufbeschwört. Der folgende langsame Satz She tells her love while half asleep („Sie spricht von ihrer Liebe im Halbschlaf“), den Lauridsen als „voller Zärtlichkeit und Wärme“ beschreibt, ist ein Loblied auf die zweite Frau des Dichters und bildet den emotionalen und formalen Höhepunkt des Werks. Dann folgt ein zweites Chorscherzo: Mid-Winter Waking („Mittwinterserwachen“) mit seinen jazzigen Synkopen beschwört die Freude des Dichters über das Wiedererwachen seiner Inspiration herauf, das mit dem ersten Tau verglichen wird, der als Vorbote zum Ende des Winters erscheint. Das Finale, Intercession in Late October („Fürbitte im Spätoktober“), ist ein stilles Gebet, das mit seinem Zögern, zur Kälte des Wetters und des Herzens zurückzukehren, tief bewegt. Ein ausgedehntes Orchesterzwischenspiel rekapituliert alles thematische Material, aber Mid-Winter Songs schließt wie mehrere Zyklen Lauridsens gleichzeitig schmerzlich und ungelöst.

aus dem Begleittext von Byron Adams © 2007
Deutsch: Renate Wendel

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