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Taken from Gregory of Narek’s Book of Lamentations, Schnittke’s Concerto for Choir is an example of how to illustrate a text skilfully. Here the tortured soul, fervent and lamenting, seeks salvation from God. The composer uses swooping dissonances rising to searing crescendos, with the high women’s voices acting as a shaftof light breaking through the angst. The choir gives a stimulating and rapt performance of this thought-provoking work. The Three Sacred Hymns to Orthodox texts are uncomplicated, homophonic settings that are sung sensitively. Voices of Nature, written to complement a documentary film, is a vocalise for ten women’s voices and vibraphone. It’s excellent in that particular genre, but has a struggle to stand on its own. Pärt’s Dopo la vittoria relates the legendary story of how St Ambrose created the Te Deum. Divided into seven sections, the text is set by the use of rhythmic intervals contrasting with a Gregorian tone in parallels. In performance this needed more of the unearthly feel so brilliantly captured in the Concerto. An interesting programme sung by a very accomplished choir.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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