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The main work on this album is Martin’s choral masterwork, the Mass for Double Choir. Completed in 1926, Martin did not allow the work to be performed for almost another 40 years. After its premiere he explained that his strict Calvinist faith adhered to a relationship with God that was entirely a private matter: ‘I felt that a personal expression of religious belief should remain secret and hidden from public opinion.’ Thankfully, Martin decided to share his ‘secret Mass’, which has been widely regarded as one of the last century’s most significant works for a cappella choir, though it remains still too little known. Bach, Hindemith, renaissance polyphony and Schoenberg’s 12-note system all play their part in shaping the music. Marcus Creed and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble give an exemplary reading of this beautiful work, with a near-perfect balance between the voices and evenness of tone across the ensemble.

The other Martin work on the CD is his Songs of Ariel, settings from Shakespeare’s The Tempest dating from 1950: engaging settings, that later led him to write an opera based on the play. The other half of the disc is devoted to Martinu: his Four Songs of the Virgin Mary (1934), unassuming, straightforward a cappella settings which illuminate aspects of, and events in, the Virgin’s life; and his Romance from the Dandelions (1955), which concerns the story of a Czech village girl waiting for her soldier sweetheart to return from the war. It has a major solo soprano part, here admirably dispatched by Klaudia Kidon. Creed and his Danish forces are as adept in Martinu as they are in Martin. Their CD is an important release.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica


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