In this edition: 20th-century choral music by Sir Arthur Bliss, Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinu; piano concertos by Grieg and Delius, reviewed by STUART MILLSON
Two superbly-produced CDs of choral music have recently appeared – one, a magnificent recording and performance of Sir Arthur Bliss’s The Beatitudes, a large-scale and much-overlooked piece, originally written for the 1962 consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral; the other, a more introspective selection of music for voices by the Swiss composer, Frank Martin, and the Czech, Bohuslav Martinu.
On a smaller scale and composed in 1922, the Mass for two four-part choirs by Frank Martin, is given a truly impeccable interpretation (on the OUR label – a name connected to Naxos) by the Danish National Vocal Ensemble – the elite choral group of Denmark’s broadcasting service. The DR Vokal Ensemble performs under the direction of Marcus Creed, former Professor of Choral Conducting at the Hochschule for Music, Cologne and was recorded in the studios of Danish radio. The clarity of the singers is truly the hallmark of this production: their voices bringing a crystal clarity – bell-like and pingingly on the note – to Martin’s surprisingly classical, even English-sounding Mass. One is reminded in places of Vaughan Williams’s Mass. The opening Kyrie echoes all the true sacred feeling of this music of affirmation and is evocative of J.S. Bach, a composer who was for Martin a foundation stone in culture. Also inspired by Shakespeare, Martin evokes the elemental magic and mystery of The Tempest, and gives new life to the Songs of Ariel. Baritone Lauritz Jakob Thomsen takes us to that ‘Full Fathom Five’ – and a true air of the supernatural pervades the sequence of five songs.
The Danish vocalists also do full justice to the Four Songs of the Virgin Mary by Bohuslav Martinu, a composer who created a unique sound-world. Stuart Millson is QR’s classical music editor. Endnotes, April 2018
ENDNOTES, April 2018 - The Quarterly Review