Victoria: Ave maris stella; O quam gloriosum /Westminster Cathedral Choir · Hill
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Motet - Messe "O quam gloriosum" - Messe "Ave Maris Stella" / Westminster Cathedral Choir, dir. David Hill
GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER 'One of my most cherished records ... such poise and sensitivity ... one of the best choral records of its kind currently available. I can recommend it without reservation' --Gramophone
'My single most satisfying choral disc of the year … I cannot be dispassionate about this record: marvellous, natural, throaty, vivid singing … a must' --The Sunday Times
Penguin Guide ROSETTE --Penguin Guide
Top Customer Reviews
This is music and these are performances that people who don't ordinarily like classical music, or people who aren't particularly religious, can listen to and enjoy endlessly.
The acoustic of the cathedral is ideal for creating a sense of space of grandeur. Intonation is superb and the human voices often takes on the characteristics of pealing bells, yet diction remains pellucid despite the resonant ambience. No polyphonic music ever expressed such unfettered yet dignified joy or reflected more confidently the rejuvenated certainties of the Counter-Reformation.
I have sung this music several times and always remark upon how the choir finds itself "in flow" during performance; no devotional music has ever been devised to sit more comfortably on the voice. How can just singing "judicare vivos et mortuos" in four parts in the Credo be so thrilling? De Victoria makes real drama out of the Creed instead of just going through the liturgical motions; we sense that he is very close to the realities of the parousia and subsequent eschaton. This is music which never strays far from teleological doctrine. Great, grand, glorious music - buy it.
Pascal was likeminded.
On November 23, 1654, the great French philosopher was overwhelmed by a numinous encounter with the One. He wrote up his experience - as best as he could - and sewed it into the liner of his coat, thus carrying it everywhere as a reminder. It wasn't until after his death that a servant uncovered this little note. This encounter has become known as "Pascal's Night of Fire."
So after rounding the Cape, we return to this Hyperion disc. It was luminously performed and recorded in November 1983. Both works here are masterpieces. But there is something more to the Agnus Dei of the Missa Ave Maris Stella that I have never been able to fathom.
As far as I can tell, it is an invitation.
It is phrased in the imperative. Does it entreat one to forego this outer garment of blood and bone? Perhaps. Is it an invitation to delve into eternity? I suspect so.
This much I know: if Pascal had heard it, he would have exclaimed "Fire".