Jackson: Ship Unfurled Sails (The State Choir Latvija, Mris Sirmais) (Choral Works) (Hyperion: CDA67976)
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The Latvian choral tradition is admired worldwide, and the nation's composers for these forces are writing overwhelmingly spiritual musicperhaps a reaction to the suppression of that material by the Soviets. But here the Latvian State Choir do the honour of turning to a British composeralbeit one who has immersed himself in the contemporary Baltic sound-world. Gabriel Jackson's sumptuous choral textures and beautiful, yet individual, harmonic language respond thrillingly to the Latvian treatment.
An interesting programme, greatly enhanced by distinguished soloists. --IRR,Jan'13
An incandescent performance of the 40 part motet Sanctum est verum lumen sets the seal on this magnificent demonstration of the art of choral singing. Performance ***** Recording ***** BBC MUSIC CHORAL & SONG CHOICE --BBC Music Magazine, Feb'13
An impressive choir performing truly impressive music. --Gramophone, March'13
Top Customer Reviews
'The Voice of the Bard', a 2007 setting of William Blake's poem, offers the first shock of dawn. The singers are in total command of Jackson's virtuosic writing here, though no less able to weave a more muted response in 'Now I have known, O Lord.' The combination of that strident full-voiced sound, complete with winning vibrato, and a muter but clarified hum is very exciting. It stops the colours from cloying and, in the Gloria of Jackson's Missa Triueriensis, really keeps the listener guessing.
The State Choir Latvija doesn't quite have the cleanliness of Stephen Layton's Polyphony and occasionally individual entries could have done with one more definitive take. But what the choir lacks in absolute pin-point precision it more than compensated by its sound. And perhaps the greatest showcase of that strength is the 40-part Tallis tribute 'Sanctum est verum lumen'.
The disc has been beautifully shaped, so the dazzle of the All Saints antiphon 'Angeli, archangeli' is followed by the cloudier mysteries of the 2009 work 'A ship with unfurled sails'. If I'm less convinced by the combination of electric guitar and choir in 'Ave regina caelorum', it is brilliantly served by these singers.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This collection is truly a treasure. I am so pleased to find that yet another fine composer has joined the sound world of the 21st century. This music is beautiful, expressive, meaningful, harmonically complex, interesting and accessible in every way. I hear no stilted and senseless dissonance, and no pointless digression into the shouting and ugliness demanded by modernist style Czars. There are still a few choppy, barking-like sections, which sound a bit like Gilbert and Sullivan renditions of church music, but they are scarce. Mostly, this is lovely, ethereal music with delightful, original tunes and lush harmonics - not in a Straussian sort of way - but in a 21st century, almost Baltic-sounding style. I won't get technical, because I am completely incompetent to do so, but this music competes with best of 21st century a cappella choral music - Esenwalds, Gjeilo, Silvestrov, Vasks, Mealor, Whitacre, Lauridsen, Clausen, Miskinis, and Praulins - and even one-ups them on occasion. To me, this music has a definite Baltic flavor, but with clear British overtones. It is possible that there has been some Baltic flavoring by the excellent State Choir of Latvia with Maris Sirmais at the podium, but I think it's mainly the music itself.
My favorite tracks are #4, a brief mass which, to me, hints very much at a "Baltic Vaughn-Williams". Track 9 is lovely, very expressive and atmospheric. Track 11, the title piece, is a true joy, with beautifully intriguing choral effects and a clear Baltic flavor - this is a great piece of music. Track 13 uses an electric guitar for accompaniment. I'm not sure that works, especially the virtuoso "cadenza" sections (sorry - so shows my familiarity with rock/pop musical terminology). It's okay, but not nearly as effective as Ola Gjeilo's use of Sax in a couple of his pieces.
In summary, if you love 21st century a cappella choral music as much as I do, you should be thrilled with this release. To me, it is as pleasurable as the best of them.