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TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 23 September 2010
In this, their third collaboration, Norwegian saxophonist
Jan Garbarek and vocal quartet The Hilliard Ensemble
(David Jones / countertenor; Rogers Covey-Crump / tenor;
Steven Harold / tenor and Gordon Jones / baritone) have
taken the liturgical musical canon of the Armenian Orthodox
church as the starting point for another sublime musical journey.

The juxtaposition of Mr Garbarek's haunting soprano and tenor
inventions within and around the other-worldly background of
The Hilliard's peerless vocal interpretations is never less than
thrilling. If there is a heaven this marriage was made there!

At the heart of this wonderful album the arrangement of
Nicolai N. Kedrov's extraordinarily beautiful 'Litany'
delivers a remarkable listening and emotional experience.
The intensity generated by Mr Garbarek's mercurial playing
and the sedate concentration of the four singers' perfectly
measured rendition of the vocal score is simply sublime.

Arvo Part's 'Most Holy Mother Of God' is another of the project's
most affecting highlights. As an expression of simple but profoundly
articulated faith the composition and performance is very moving.
(Mr Garbarek watches in silence from the wings on this one).

'Alleluia. Nativitas', a jaunty piece by 12th century composer
Perotin, ducks and dives and dances in the sun without a care in
the world. A little light relief from the otherwise sober and
reverential atmosphere of the rest of the album and a playful
manifestation of another kind of spiritual vision and joy.

Manfred Eicher's luminously detailed production for ECM is magical.
The accompanying booklet, with an informative text by
Thomas Steinfeld and stunning black and white photographs
by Mario Giacomelli further enhance our enjoyment.

An important recording of inspired artistry and refinement.

Essential.
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on 23 September 2010
There has been surprisingly little reaction to this by British critics and what there is is somewhat sniffy. Do not be deterred by this indifference, for this is a significant release, accompanied by a beautiful and informative booklet featuring some photographs by the late Mario Giacomelli which perfectly evoke the feel of the music. For the uninitiated, 1994's "Officium" was a huge critical and commercial hit connecting with the then vogue for Gregorian Chant. However, while "Officium" was good, 1999's double "Mnemosyne", drawing from a wider range of sources, was fantastic; richer, more varied, more disorientating but ultimately more satisfying. Now "Novum Officium" builds on the fascination of ECM and Manfred Eicher in particular of Armenia and the Orthodox liturgical tradition in general.

On the first few listens, I was slightly disappointed and wondered if the underlying conclusion of the "broadsheet" reviews ("If you liked "Officium" you will like this too") did evidence a treading of water. As so often, subsequent, sustained exposure has cured such misconceptions. While Garbarek's saxophone initially seemed too intrusive, now it soars, on occasions echoing (as has been remarked elsewhere) the wonderful Armenian rosewood instrument, the duduk. The Hilliard Ensemble's singing is as beautiful as ever but perhaps even more haunting as they sing such material as the Byzantine chant "Svjete tihij" ("Gladsome light") and, in the case of baritone Gordon Jones, the Russian Lord's Prayer "Otche Nash".

Not everything succeeds (the jauntiness of Perotin's "Alleluia. Nativitas" is rather out of place) but, at its highest, this is magical musical beautiful, profound, orthodox and unorthodox in every sense and as the liner notes say "highly informed, austere and yet artistically free."
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on 4 October 2010
The original Officium was stunning both in execution and atmosphere and moved the senses in a way that few CDs can. It really did carry you away to the hidden monastery of St Gerold in Austria where it was recorded. The follow-up Mnemosyne was not quite as successful to my ears, being more random and less fluid. Having sung from a young age and still regularly singing plainsong and early music in church, this didn't flick the same switches. The new album mines a different seam from earlier efforts but is more in keeping with Officium than Mnemosyne. If it is not quite as impressive as the first effort, that is perhaps due to familiarity rather than content. If you liked the first album, you'll surely like this one.
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on 3 October 2010
It proves in these days of "product placxement"that a Label like ECM can keep up anm incredible standard and also develope an idea.
This third installment is every bit as good as the previous two,perhaps with Gaarbarek playing more tunefully,and the Hilliards more obtruse.
The Music is this time more Eastern European than we have come to expect with the songs sung in Russian<Lativian and Latin.
The packaging and production are exquisite.
This is extermely beautiful music,that is played with passion,grace and fire.
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on 21 May 2011
This CD is fantastic! I could listen to it for ever! Absolutely amazing!
I can hardly believe that the BBC journalist who reviewed this, felt he had to warn listeners about the 'religious connotations, in the music! One wonders if he is one of these trendy New Atheists. There seem to be a lot of them working for Radio three, sadly! One wonders how they can bear to listen to a Bach mass!
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on 21 October 2010
I have now acquired this CD having previously purchased the first two recordings made by Jan Garbarek with the Hilliard Ensemble. I also heard them perform live at Bath Abbey when they came to prominence following the release of the original recording of Officium. This was particularly memorable in that the performers moved slowly around the Abbey, which I found to be a very novel experience. I think I can thus safely say that I am a fan of this very unusual collaboration.Officium Novum is, in my opinion, every bit as good as the previous ones and the music performed, which includes modern pieces written by Jan Garbarek himself and Arvo Part, extends the repertoire previously recorded. I was undecided whether or not I should award five stars, but very nearly did. Suffice it to say that I regard the music as intensely moving and worthy of repeated hearing.
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on 8 March 2014
However many times this is played the quality of the playing and singing still takes you by delighted surprise. We heard them live in Chichester Cathedral and the "collective gasp of recognition and pleasure" from the audience when Officium began must have been very pleasing to the group.
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on 23 March 2014
have enjoyed the Hilliard and Garbarek since their 1st music of Officium. Sad to hear the Hilliard are disbanding, therefore went to their concert in Kelvingrove. It was magnificent, therefore had to hold on to the sound by buying this disc. Beautiful
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on 29 November 2012
Lucky enough to see (or rather hear) them again in St Paul's Cathedral recently. The notes on the sax literally soar up into that incredible space, yet the voices of the Hilliard are still prominent, and the harmony of sax & voice, especially when "deliquescing", is uncanny. Enjoy this CD, but see them perform live if you possibly can.
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on 4 November 2010
was not, for me, as striking or immediately appealing as their first two issues, though Jan Garbarek's performance was of course first class. I think it was basically the source material used which just failed to to come up to the very impact and beauty of the previous pieces. I'm hoping however that this recording will grow on me in time.
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