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MUSIC | Four albums featuring sacred works
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Simon Mold: Passiontide
The Knighton Consort, David Cowen, et al.
What makes this recording of Simon Mold’s 2010 “Lenten cantata for soloists, choir and organ” unique isn’t the music or the performances (both fine). It’s the seamless textual garment that Mold has woven from Scripture (three psalms, Micah 6, 1 Peter 2), Coles’ Christologia, Aquinas, and a half-dozen hymnists spanning several centuries. Then there’s “The Dream of the Rood,” wherein the cross speaks for itself.
Fausto Caporali: Via Crucis & Cantate Sacre
Pueri Cantores Malaga, Coro Catedral de Malaga
Two fourth-century martyrs inspired the first of Disc 2’s sacred cantatas. The 1487 defeat of the Muslim Emirate of Granada by Spain’s Catholic monarchs inspired the other. Devout historians enamored of the expressive powers of the organ will enjoy both. Disc 1’s Stations of the Cross–inspired Via Crucis, however, is for everyone. The children’s choir, which never sounds cute, sings and declaims in Spanish. (The booklet contains English.) Francisco Javier Sánchez Bandera, who renders Christ’s agonies in a piercingly wailing Latin, needs no translation.
Musica Ficta, Bo Holten
If they’re any good, liner notes illuminate the listening experience, not the other way around. But in this album’s cover booklet, the musicologist Bjarke Moe examines the roots of Danish Protestant hymnody with such precision that if you read before you listen—and you probably should unless you already know a lot about the subject or speak Latin, Danish, and German—you’ll find the music illuminating Moe’s explication. And the more you know going in, the less likely that the a cappella sounds made by the early-music-specializing vocal ensemble Musica Ficta will pass you by like so much undifferentiated beauty.
Christopher Tyler Nickel: GATM: Prophecy EP
Vancouver Contemporary Orchestra, Clyde Mitchell
In April, Avie Records will release the complete, seven-disc oratorio of which this 19-minute digital EP is one of three five-selection, appetite-whetting excerpts. (The first, Salvation, dropped in January. The last, Death and Resurrection, drops in March.) They’re also a way for listeners who lack the time or money to invest in the complete work not to miss out on its riches altogether—riches that include clearly articulated singing, detailed sonic definition, and melodic motifs that ebb and flow at a pace conducive to meditation on the relevant Gospel texts.
Another new organ-centric project inspired by the Stations of the Cross is Richard Moore’s recording of Philip Moore’s Via Crucis (Convivium). Interspersed with readings of the late Eric Milner-White’s circa-1950 Passion prayers by the Rev. Dr. Barry Orford, the 15 “Musical Reflections” (“The Agony in Gethsemane,” “The Kiss of Judas,” “St. Simon of Cyrene,” etc.) comprise a work that, to quote the program notes, “speaks to the future through the language of the past.”
What situates the language of Milner-White’s prayers in the past is their elevated diction and Elizabethan-era pronouns. What speaks to the future (and the present) is Philip Moore’s ominous music as brought to life by Richard Moore on the four-manual organ at the Guildford Cathedral in England. One caveat: The dynamics, which range from too quiet (Orford’s readings) to too loud (“Musical Reflection No. 6”), will have you reaching, and at times lunging, for the volume knob. —A.O.
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