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BO HOLTEN choral music
BBC Singers/Bo Holten/
Catherine Bott (Soprano)

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1992-95) Six Poems by William Blake
The Sick Rose
The Tyger
A Cradle Song (Soprano solo: Micaela Haslam )
A Divine Image
First Snow (1996)
First Snow
Hermit Peak
A Time for Everything (1990)
Rain and Rush and Rosebush (1991)

11. In Nomine (1999) for 24 solo voices

Temple Church, London February 2002 [TT: 62:57]

Da Capo 8.224214

This is a rewarding CD for those interested in the Scandinavian choir scene but there has to be an important caveat; the Temple Church in London is so resonant that most of the words (supplied in full and translated) are inaudible and it took a little time to persuade myself that The BBC Singers were singing in English!

Bo Holten, who has conducted more than 500 concerts and recorded 20 CDs, is a noted choral conductor and dedicated 'anti-modernist' composer. But do not either crow with delight or let your hackles rise! He is an accomplished composer with enviable technical expertise and although the music is mainly tonally based, it is imaginative and quite tough; far from simplistic and worlds away from the self indulgence of a Tavener. This music needs expert choirs and the BBC Singers is one of the best - though I dare say many of the non-professional choirs which are in the large majority in this flourishing movement will have tackled many of the pieces successfully. Holten has conducted the BBC Singers in several Proms.

The five choral songs to texts by William Blake show that exciting music can be written on a traditionional base, without entering the maze of complexity. His music has its very own sound and is something as rare as euphonious and balanced - yet still a little offbeat; discords are telling and always perfectly tuned.

To sum up, Bo Holten is an important Danish composer in a genre which is still a byway remote from the prevailing orchestral mainstream interest, perhaps to be compared with his Scandinavian colleague from Finland, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, whose CDs have impressed me vastly recently. Both composers' CDs are well produced and documented, but Mäntyjärvi's have an edge over this one in recording quality.


© Peter Grahame Woolf