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The Dream of the Rood is the first dream-vision in Anglo-Saxon literature. Part of it is inscribed on the Ruthwell Cross in Dumfriesshire. John Casken has freely adapted the text and sets it with his usual polystylistic freedom (he studied with Lutosławski, after all) and approachability. A detailed score flirts with microtones and unexpected intervals but retains the oneiric clarity of the source text in which a jewelled tree is both the site of the Crucifixion and its triumphant transcendence, a transformation done without perfumed mysticism. The Hilliards, who have recorded Casken before, sing with limpid clarity and moments of earthy force. There is an additional setting by Pérotin (Viderunt omnes, arranged by Casken) and three early strophic settings in three and four voice parts. Mysterious but tightly controlled: the perfect prelude to Casken’s vocal masterpiece.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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