Works by Byrd, N Cox, Donna McKevitt, C Morales, Purcell, Skempton, Tallis, Tavener et al
Samuel Mitchell (narrator); Gesualdo Six/Owain Park
Hyperion CDA68388 64:50 min
This moving collection contains music for mourning and remembrance. It encompasses not only strictly liturgical objects (such as those in the requiem services of Morales and Byrd), but also memorials of private devotion and public history (as in Joanna Marsh’s setting of a poem in l honor of Stephen Bence’s wife, or Douglas Guest’s music for the famous Remembrance Sunday lyrics: “They shall not grow old”).
The great experience and talent of these singers make it possible to perfectly tune songs such as Tallis’s In union (sung at low pitch) and superb phrasal breathing (especially in Morales Because mihi). But the “landscape of intensity” of these earlier pieces is sometimes strangely devoid of relief, and even the excruciatingly expressive false harmonic relationships in Byrd’s work Catch me are underestimated. By contrast, modern works – like Neil Cox’s antiphon, “Keep me as a prunelle of thine eye” – are full of angry vocal sounds. The most original piece is probably that of Owain Park In parentheses based on selected excerpts from an epic tale of that name by David Jones (TS Eliot called it the greatest poem of World War I). Park eerily evokes the fleeting thoughts, actions, and half-remembered songs that race through the minds of soldiers.