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Eliasson’s music is always sui generis and this huge symphonic oratorio (or choral symphony) is unique in the modern canon. Eliasson has no patience with the extreme instrumentation of contemporary ‘spectral’ music. The orchestral palette wouldn’t have seemed alien to Brahms, but Eliasson’s ‘triangular’ harmony – which breaks with the cycle of fifths – delivers a sound that is at once texturally familiar and functionally alien. Lacking a text, Eliasson wrote 190 bars of orchestral score, all derived from a basic motive, before breaking off to concentrate on other work, including the great Trombone Concerto and the brilliant Sinfonia per archi, which is essentially a companion or shadow piece to this. A passionately religious man with no settled affiliation to sect, he was moved by the line ‘Quo vadis, Domine?’ and found other relevant and personal texts – Sumerian, Sufi, Apocryphal – that allowed him to bring in voices precisely at bar 191 and to blend them symphonically for the remaining duration of a mighty piece, calmly and unstrenuously delivered here. The Swedish Radio Choir and Orchestra rise to the challenge, a performance so confident one is apt to forget the demands being placed upon them. A contemporary classic and a recording to match.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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