Hail Queen of Heaven – Choral Music by Rihards Dubra [Hyperion]

0 of 5 stars

Oculus non vidit
Ave Maria – I & III
Miserere mei
Hail, Queen of Heaven
Duo Seraphim
Felix namque es …
Stetit Angelus
Gloria Patri
Missa de Spiritu Sancto
Hodie Christus natus est
Ubi caritas

The Choir of Royal Holloway
Rupert Gough

Alexander Norman (organ – Missa de Spiritu Sancto)

Recorded 9 & 10 January 2009 in St Alban’s Church, Holborn, London

Reviewed by: Graham Rogers

Reviewed: January 2010
Duration: 67 minutes



This pleasurable release brims with highly persuasive performances of attractive sacred choral music by Latvian composer Rihards Dubra.

Born in Riga in 1964, Dubra grew up under the religion-intolerant Soviet regime – which makes it all the more remarkable that he should have developed such skill at crafting beautiful and heartfelt devotional settings. No doubt many listeners will hear echoes of Pärt, Tavener and Rutti, among others; but such comparisons do not do Dubra full justice. His own voice is distinct: his gift for melody and effortless lyricism, with simple but never banal harmonies and rich textures, makes for an engaging – frequently entrancing – combination.

The sweetly flowing concluding passages of “Ave Maria III” are as appealing as any of John Rutter’s finest creations, yet the disquieting downward sliding portamento on the final “Amen” shows a striking avoidance of complacency. Much of the music is linear, but interest abounds in often-telling use of chromaticism and myriad other musical effects, employed with subtlety and integrity.

Most of the pieces in this generous selection last around 4 minutes; more substantial is the 11-minute “Hail, Queen of Heaven” from 2007, which has a film soundtrack-like epic scope and sufficient variation to hold the listener engrossed – including a delightful evocation of medieval dance.

Rupert Gough and the excellent Choir of Royal Holloway are terrific advocates for this repertoire. The choristers sound as fluent with and as dedicated to Dubra’s music as if they had been singing it all their lives, helped by the warmly resonant acoustic of St Alban’s, Holborn.

Most of the music is a cappella, but the sopranos and altos are joined by organist Alexander Norman for the 4-movement “Missa de Spiritu Sancto”, which opens with a haunting ‘Kyrie’, and closes with a radiantly shimmering ‘Agnus Dei’. There is much to enjoy in this enchanting album.

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