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Landscape and Time

Choral works by Richard Rodney Bennett. John McCabe, Cyrillus Kreek, Jackson Hill, Peter Maxwell Davies, Jean Sibelius, Zoltan Kodaly, Bob Chilcott.

The Kings Singers
, with Andrew Swait (treble)

Signum Classics SIG CD 090


It is impossible fully to discuss humanity's place in the world within the scope of a CD booklet essay; fortunately, it is far easier to present exemplars within seventy minutes of music. ‘Landscape and Time' announces ambitious themes, the introduction by John McCabe valiantly argues for man's organic place in a nature full of sound, colour, and yes, landscapes and times. But it is the universality of the singing voice that makes the argument for him.


Music instruments mediate cultural relations; it's hard to write piano music nowadays without it sounding either pastiche or perverse, because the listener cannot but be aware of what traditional piano music is like. Singing, however, is universal. It has been the basis of all music, is often cited (not least by the present Pope) as a route toward spiritual understanding, and far more easily makes the bridge between classical and folk, traditional and contemporary, old and new.


There are works on this CD by Sibelius and Kodaly; the texts they derive from and the atmospheres they evoke are about nature and the spirit world. But their musical language is comforting as well as imaginative; giving a familiar context within which to appreciate the less-known composers (Kreek is Estonian and has similarities with Sibelius, Chilcott is an ex-King's Singer) or the more difficult works (McCabe's is the longest, modernist, and post-impressionist).


The King's Singers need no introduction. Their sharpness and musical sympathy are as strong as ever; they are, very literally, interpreters of the idea of the disc as well as of the music, commissioning five of the works here. The recording, by the strong team of Hatch and Hinnitt, is beautifully clear; both the McCabe essay and the general notes are necessary to the full enjoyment of the disc as well as informative.


Depending on your starting point, this is either a highbrow version of a ‘New Age' CD, or an accessible attempt by contemporary choral music to extend its appeal. If you are sympathetic to he project, it has been immaculately realised.


Ying Chang