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Jan Yngwe’s Vocal Art Ensemble always produce bold and eclectic programmes. This one tackles race hatred, environ- mental damage, globalisation and the spirit of democracy in a programme that takes in Maurice Ravel and Samuel Barber, the Latvian Eriks Ešenvalds, the Filipino John August Pamintuan, songwriter Imogen Heap and the Taiwanese Cynthia Yih Shih (aka Vienna Teng). Yngwe’s own title piece is to a text by Martin Luther King Jr. Such a programme might easily turn declamatory and strident, but the singing is lively and lyrical, and devices like the use of tuned wineglasses on Ešenvalds’s New Moon and Stars keep the sonori- ties fresh. Programming Barber’s Agnus Dei (the composer’s own a cappella version) near the end was a great stroke.

Likewise the Westberg Ensemble, who don’t know how to make a dull record. Gunnar de Frumerie’s beautiful Vita Nuova is Dante by way of Pär Lagerkvist, the oldest piece here. Malmborg Ward’s Vidder was only finished in 2015, and yet the span of textual inspiration suggests a much longer perspective, with Petrarch, Francis of Assisi (intensely relevant again) and St Luke all used. This is committed, intelligent music-making and testimony to Sweden’s high international standing in choral performance.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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