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Illumina: Illumina - The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Timothy Brown

Illumina: Illumina - The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Timothy Brown

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The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Timothy Brown

Gregorian Chant: Lumen
Harris, W: Bring us, O Lord God
Rautavaara: Ehtoohymni (Evening hymn)
Rachmaninov: Nunc Dimittis
Byrd: O Lux beata Trinitas
Hildegard: O coruscans lux stellarum
Tallis: O nata lux de lumine 5vv
Tallis: Te lucis ante terminum
Rutter: Hymn to the Creator of Light
Wood, C: Hail, gladdening Light

White, Robert: Christe qui lux es et dies
Holst: Nunc dimittis, H127
Palestrina: Christe, qui lux es et dies
Despres: Nunc Dimittis
Grechaninov: Svyétye tíkhii (Hail, gladdening Light)
Tchaikovsky: Svyétye tíkhii (Hail, gladdening Light)
Palestrina: Lucis Creator optime
Ligeti: Lux aeterna

Retrospectively the disc's final item, Ligeti's Luxaeterna, dominates the recital. Not only does it make an indelible impression, but it also casts its light over the entire programme and style of singing.
To a listener who has not heard it before (a slightly smaller category than might be thought, as the piece was used in the film 2001: A SpaceOdyssey) it may even come as the light on the road to Damascus, a blinding revelation of unknown choral sonorities. An extraordinary sound–world is opening up, with long, finely ruled streams of light, a spectrum of colours wide as the distance from heaven to earth, and all mingling eventually within the cavern of a great bell. The challenge to singers (even when assisted by the reverberance of Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel) is formidable indeed, and these young voices (with lungs and ears involved also) do marvellously well. And so they do throughout. The quality of choral tone here is remarkable: no thready sopranos, none of those bone–dry basses, but a sound that, though strictly disciplined in the matter of vibrato, is still fresh and natural. They achieve wonders of crescendo, as in William Harris's Bring us, O LordGod, and their opening chords (in Tallis's O natalux for instance) are as if cut by the sharpest slicer ever made. Even so, this smooth, flawless beauty of sound is, in some contexts, like the modern beauty of the face of a heroine in some televised piece of period–drama. Josquin Desprez's Nuncdimittis is an example: the singing is extremely beautiful, but conceptually (and not just in the women's voices) seems anachronistic. It's as though they have worked on their programme with the precept 'All choral music aspires to the condition of Ligeti'. A wondrous record, all the same.

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