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St James Cathedral in Seattle has acoustics so reverberant they almost sound like a studio artefact. It probably ought not to work for some of the homelier material here – William Bergsma’s Riddle Me This and John Muehleisen’s Eat Your Vegetables – but it somehow does, and Pontén doesn’t hold back his singers. The Pacific Northwest is where the great frontier collision – all the European cultures, nativism and the influence of Asia – piles up most richly, and the only generalisation that can be made about the music here is that it can’t be generalised. Bern Herbolsheimer’s title piece, a premiere recording, seems to match Lutheran singing to an idiom that could be Native American or Japanese; Alan Hovhaness’s The Lord’s Prayer likewise. Whether dealing with religious/spiritual issues or the natural scene (and they’re often conflated) this is powerfully evocative music.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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