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Landscape's Creatures Sydney Chamber Choir/Nicholas Routley

Landscape's Creatures
Logos (Raffaele Marcellino)
Sicut Lilium (Nicholas Routley)
Memory pieces (Stephen Adams)
Geography Songs (Paul Stanhope)

Sydney Chamber Choir/Nicholas Routley
Tall Poppies CD TP160 [2001 64 mins]

This CD is a spin-off from hearing the Australian composer Stephen Adams' Memory pieces at Marktoberdorf, the most memorable newish work in the recent Choral Competition/Festival in Bavaria. I have the De la Rue Choir's performance of it on the Marktoberdorf 2005 recording of their concert, which can be highly recommended.*

The (mainly) non-professional chamber choir field is in impressively good health, with the best virtually indistinguishable from their professional colleagues. The Sydney choir is a good example and its repertoire of contemporary music from Australia worth collectors' attention, offering pleasure and satisfaction entirely comparable with leading instrumental ensembles.

This selection boasts interesting sources. Full texts are provided, which is essential for music of this complexity and enhances listening pleasure at home.

Marcellino's multilingual text explores the Babel of today's worlds (verbal and musical languages). His Logos 'constructs itself until it is too confused'. Routley uses fragments from the Song of Solomon 'as triggers for memory' and has a vibraphone to increase the bloom on women's voices. Stanhope's Geography Songs depict 'a sense of space, whether the gutter or the rainforest' and explore 'spiritual qualities of the natural world'. Stephen Adams takes on Walwicz's free associations and interconnections of memory and his is a major work of compelling interest.

Fine music, given with total confidence and magnificently recorded. Not a new CD but, statistically, monthly releases tend to offer less of lasting value than the best from years past which tend to fail to get reviewed far beyond their countries of origin and are too quickly forgotten. You won't regret sampling the productions of Sydney Chamber Choir and Canada's Ensemble de la Rue.

* Ensemble de la Rue (cond. William Kempster) has released another recording of Memory Pieces by Stephen Adams coupled with works by their eponymous composer Pierre de la Rue and motets by John Taverner and Josquin des Pres [EdlR200502]. I found the recording venue (a chapel in Camrose, Canada) too resonant, so that one often lost the words even with the text in fronto of you. Mr Kempster, who should know, thinks this performance was better than the one they gave at Marktoberdorf; I haave not had time to review it comparatively, or with the Sydney Chamber Choir version without a sight of the score (other CDs of Mr Adams' music promised). Details & purchase from www.ensembledelarue.org

© Peter Grahame Woolf