SKYLARK - Seven Words From The Cross

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SKYLARK - Seven Words From The Cross - Skylark Vocal Ensemble - Blu-Ray Audio / CD - 053479221926 - Released: March 2018 - Sono Luminus DSL-92219

Traditional: Were You There?
William Billings: When Jesus Wept
Traditional: New Britain (Amazing Grace)
Traditional: Wondrous Love (arranged by Robert Shaw and Alice Parker)
William Billings: Jordan (There is a land of pure delight)
Hugo Distler: Ich wollt, das ich daheime wär
Hildegard von Bingen: Karitas Abundat
Frederick Buckley: Break it Gently to my Mother
William Billings: David's Lamentation
Francis Poulenc: Vinea mea electa
William Billings: Plymton (In deep distress I oft have cried)
Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Thann heilaga kross
Jaakko Mäntyjärvi: Death may dissolve (fantasia on a hymn by William Billings)
Traditional: Deep River (arranged by Gerre Hancock)
John Sheppard: In manus tuas
Traditional: Just as I am

This is how it's done!

When a record label, producer, musician or ensemble set out to release a new recording that brings together a mélange of assorted works by different composers from different time periods and of disparate styles, they should at least start off with a unifying theme or concept in mind, selecting pieces that touch on the same subject matter, albeit from divergent perspectives. It's the binding agent that brings everyting together into a coherent whole, and sets a mood that follows you from start to finish. And that's exactly what this new recording achieves so well.

Good Friday is the focal point here that brings together a collection of pieces from composers spanning the globe and covering a time span of almost a millennium. From the plaintive 11th century chant Karitas Abundat by Hildegard von Bingen to the 21st century Thann heilaga kross by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Despite the 1,000 years that separates them, they share the same suffering and pain, and neither disrupts the tone of this collection but in fact reinforce it. Too many collections suffer from one or two pieces that are so out of character or a style so far out in left field, that they break your focus and ruin the whole experience. As a matter of fact, this Thann heilaga kross is now a new favorite choral work of mine. The haunting Vinea mea electa by Francis Poulenc is perfectly sung here, and even the traditional hymns are performed with deep respect and a fresh outlook. I don't think I've ever heard Were You There? done so well and with such unfeigned expression.

Skylark is a premiere vocal ensemble of leading American vocal soloists, chamber musicians, and music educators. They make "a capella" singing seem so simple, when actually it's one of the hardest things any choir can achieve. Their unwavering pitch, dynamic control and ensemble balance are breathtaking. And so it the sound engineering. The recording on this Sono Luminus (formerly Dorian) disc is offered in standard CD, Pure Audio Blu-ray, 5.1 DTS HD MA 24/192kHz, 9.1 Auro 3D 24/96kHz, 2.0 LPCM 24/192kHz, or 9.1 Dolby Atmos 24/48kHz. Because I've been listening to a pre-release review copy, all I have is .wav files on my computer and the sound reproduction is excellent. I can just imagine how amazing it must sound when played back on Blu-ray equipment.

Jean-Yves Duperron - February 2018