This disc is really something special. Morten Lauridsen is an American composer born in 1943 who is now making a name for himself in the polyphonic field. The music on this disc is not only extremely accessible but also highly original. The main item is Lux aeterna, a work for chorus and orchestra in 5 movements. No sooner had Lauridsen started composition, his mother died. This sad event gave an added impetus and poignancy to the work which enjoyed a very successful première on the 13th of April 1997. It is suffused by warmth, serenity and consolation and is out to express hope, reassurance, faith and light. The text is a mixture of collated texts from a variety of sacred Latin sources.
'Madrigali' is a choral ode for a capella chorus and was composed in 1987. The composer uses techniques favoured by 16th century Italian madrigalists particularly those of Monteverdi and Gesualdo. The emotional landscape here is in sharp contrast to 'Lux aeterna'. In fact, the Madrigali are saturated by darkness, yearning and at times profound despair. It is fascinating to listen to those two works one after another.
The disc also includes three Latin motets. These short compositions belong to the realms of purity and are far removed from the dark passions of the Madrigals. They make a perfect ending to a wonderful disc full of innovative, and at times, passionate music.
The performers, Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia under the able hand of Stephen Layton are perfectly suited to this music. I hardly need to emphasize their immaculate renditions of these works. For those who would like to investigate new, modern works, this disc is an ideal starting point available in Hybrid Multichannel SACD and conventional CD formats.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech