Escorial

CHRISTOPHER SMITH St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Norwich

From Darkness into Light was the theme of this particularly agreeable recital of unaccompanied music, largely of a religious character, performed under the direction of Christopher Duarte by his two dozen skilled Escorial singers.

The span in time and manner was impressively wide, from plainsong, continental polyphony and our Tudor period by way of an example of English music from the early 20th century to something distinctly modern from America.


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Sailing blithely through complex-ities and adopting one style after the other they switch from Latin to English and back again, the choir was in great form. The basses did take a little while to get into their stride, a few of the exposed leads could have been a bit more confident, and the blend of voices was not always impeccable. But these were minor blemishes in interpretations that sounded well in the cathedral.

A series of quite lengthy passages from Victoria's Passion music came over with particular force with the voices tracing intricate patterns in words that took on more meaning thanks to repetitions.

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Of the more recent compositions Eric Whitacre's sensitive, quite subdued settings were by far the most interesting. Lux Aurumque used just three lines of verse, which seemed a sensible thing to do, and developed them as the basis for a gentle lullaby. The text of Sleep was far longer, but there was no need to tease out a puzzling argument because it had a satisfying unity. It brought the evening to a satisfying, relaxing conclusion.

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