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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 24 September 2002
On paper the idea for this recording would have made an interesting suggestion- Norwegian modern jazz saxophone player meets English vocal quartet, and use medieval to renaissance sacred choral music as the basis of improvisation. Jan Garbarek has made a lot of CD's in his time signed to ECM, and these have, in my opinion, a wide range of success. Some recordings are often quite cliched and cheesy. This CD is possibly the best he has made. Possibly one of the best anyone will ever make.
The mood of the singers is dramatically sombre. There is a distinctly pure tone. There is no vibrato, no fast pieces. In the monastery where this was recorded there is a lot of reverb. This all leads to the transcendental effect of the music, it really feels as if some of the peace of the monastery has been captured and held in the music. A semi-lethargic quality is provided, in that we feel as if the music freezes us in time, or perhaps draws us out of time. The sound quality is perfect, we feel drawn out of life, and even provided with a different perspective of life, though more of a detachment from it. The singing operates in this fantastic manner, at once peaceful and dramatic, at once disturbing, awe-inspiring, and comforting. Added to this is the sax.
In the pieces where the sax provides a melody line it interweaves beautifully, involving itself with the singing, then dancing away, at times sympathising with the singers, at other times mocking them with bizarre super impositions. One minute identifying with the music, the next dancing away carelessly. Where the singing operates on a transcendental level, the sax seems to operate on all other levels, free from the necessary restrain of the singers. Where the music of the singing is too dramatic the sax detaches us carelessly. Where the sax provides the pedal it almost operates a reversal of the roles, allowing David James' sublime countertenor take the melodic role.
This music can be listened to at all times. However, on first getting it, dim some lights, feel at peace, put it on in as much surround as possible. You have a heart of stone if shivers aren't sent up your spine, or you are forced to tears.
This review may sound a bit over the top, but reserve judgement until you have heard it. It changed much of my musical thinking.
Its just quite good, y' know?
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on 2 August 2006
This is a remarkable Cd. Haunting, beautiful, spiritually stimulating (for those that need it) or tranquilizing (for those that don't.)

Memorable for all the ad men and women who have poached it over the years for evocative interlude music.

Easily one of my top ten CD's. If you have a vivid imagination, a good sound system, and time to wallow, then this is the album you've been searching for all those years to ignite your inner creativity and to flex the left side of your brain.

Enjoy,

Ernest the Goose.
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on 21 March 2011
I heard this group several times on the radio and decided I must have the CDs.
I now have two and enjoy the haunting sounds of the pure voices and the saxophone.
Music of that era has a beautiful simplicity and sacredness to it.
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on 29 March 2000
I bought the CD on the basis of hearing one track (Parce Domine) in the car on the way to work one morning. I found that track absolutely riveting. Most of the rest of collection is equally arresting with one or two exceptions where in my opinion the saxophone is not sympathetic to the choral work, and is quite jarring. On the whole, one to keep coming back to.
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on 26 June 2011
Officium Novum

This was an excellent CD. I had first heard a track on Classic FM, and having consulted the site for the name of the track, it was good to be able to locate it on Amazon. I have not stopped listening to it. It certainly calms me for my daily hourly commute to work. Very soothing and haunting. A must have for music lovers and especially tenor saxaphone fans (there is a little bit of alto as well).
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on 17 July 2011
I started listening to this album at the same time as I started reading Dissolution by C J Sansom and was transported to Tudor England and the dissolution of the monasteries. It's something more than the sum of its parts - jazz and chant. It is relaxing and poignant and the tunes remain playing in your mind as a sort of echo. I recommend it.
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on 2 January 2011
I was stunned to receive this on xmas day as i thought no one had got it for me.
Heard it on the radio a few years ago, loved it, wrote it down and lost the bit of paper then found it again.
Exactly as i remembered. The combination of gregorian chant with sax is sooo goosebumpy.
A bit much for a whole CD as it is a bit 'samey' but but i play it a lot when i don't want mozart or pop music in the background.
The harmonizing is divine.
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on 4 March 2008
There are moments in life when you can become speechless,I have always liked the ethos of the ECM label,and in the the vast majority of albums they release hit such a standard that other labels can only dream of,this is aone such album.
Garbarek and the Hilliards are in a stratosphere of their own,this truly stunning album achieves a benchmark even in ECMs high standard.the music is never short of stunning with Garbarek weaving his magic spell with beautiful,gracefull and moving sounds so much so that the problems of the world seem to disapear.
The Hilliard ensembles vocal ambience was never better,and having seen Garbarek and the Hilliards perform this live in concert,this is no one hit wonder.
This album changed the way that i listen to music,if you get a chance let this into your life,soul and heart and you will feel much better for it.
The music is enchanting,haunting and beautiful,and dates from the 13th14th and 15th century and it is a credit to all performers that it still sounds fresh today,if you like this try Gothic Voices "A Feather on the breath Of God"
Buy this album and be at peace with yourself
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on 23 August 2000
This is music that makes you stop and listen, an extraordinary blend of ancient and modern. Garbarek's sax improvisations are amazing and take this music well beyond the ordinary. If you're looking for something just that bit different, try it.
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on 31 July 2000
I'm not a music specialist, but I love this album. It's music which helps you order the thoughts of the day and while doing so draws you thoroughly into the quite magical sax playing. A brilliant fusion of old and new.
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