Beatus vir, Sanctus Paulus
Beatus vir, Sanctus Antonius
Beatus vir, Sanctus Martinus
Two Lenten Motets – Memento mei, Domine; Crucem tuam adoramus, Domine
The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge
Recorded 4-7 July 2007 in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge
Reviewed by: Graham Rogers
Reviewed: September 2008
CD No: HYPERION CDA67639
Duration: 66 minutes
The short pieces here (the longest is just over 9 minutes, the average under 4) date from between 1992 and 2007, and display not only an eclectic range of influences, but also a strongly affecting original voice. The well-programmed disc opens with “Beatus vir, Sanctus Paulus”, a starkly arresting hymn of praise with distinctive use of perfect fifths. This is contrasted with the warmth and folk-like feel of “Beatus vir, Sanctus Antonius”, featuring impressively resonant low bass singing.
Stephen Layton and The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge are committed and idiomatic, totally at home in this repertoire. Apart from occasional echoes of the English choral tradition in the rich mix of Lukaszewksi’s music, it is an accolade to say that the captivating performances transport the listener far beyond the rarefied atmosphere of a Cambridge college. With full-bodied tone, precise ensemble and immense versatility, the superb choral singing is a big factor in the success of this album.
Other musical highlights include the mesmerising cascading figures in contrary motion in a third “Beatus vir” (to Saint Martin); the simple, heart-rending beauty (reminiscent of John Barry in “Out of Africa” mode) of “Crucem tuam adoramus”, with its luscious, naughty-but-nice (but rarely predictable) harmonies; and a plaintive and impassioned “Ave Maria” for double choir.
Most substantial is the diverse series of seven Advent Antiphons, ranging from ‘O Sapientia’, with a Steve Reich-style accompaniment of rapidly pulsing, quirkily accented accompanying figures, through the mournful opening and Gospel-like fervour of ‘O Adonai’, to the striking affirmation of the concluding ‘O Emmanuel’, binding together elements of the preceding six settings.
Fittingly, the last work on the disc (and the most recently composed) – a radiantly plaintive setting of the “Nunc dimittis” – is dedicated to Stephen Layton, in recognition of the conductor’s enthusiastic championing of this rewarding music.