ARNESEN Magnificat KERNIS Musica Celestis
Although this disc was recorded in the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world (in Trondheim), there is nothing chilly about this warmly compassionate music, which positively glows with its soaring, beautifully arched melodic lines, sung by fresh female voices and accompanied by the dynamic playing of the Trondheim Soloists’ strings. Pure Audio Blu-ray and Auro-3D encoding further enhance the sonic splendour of this recording, which was made in 2013 14 in Nidaros Cathedral.
Arnesen’s setting of the Magnificat (commissioned in 2010 by the Nidaros Cathedral Girls’ Choir) approaches the familiar text from Mary’s viewpoint, emphasising her sense of wonderment, humility and devotion. The highly derivative idiom is thoroughly tonal, the tone luxurious and the work cast at a predominantly prayerful slow pace. The opening is especially haunting, with its unhurried and repetitive echoes of Pärt – before slipping towards Howard Goodall. Poulenc and Karl Jenkins spring to mind in the slow waltz treatment of the ‘Ecce enim’, which introduces the glorious voice of soprano Lise Granden Berg. The work’s only fast music occurs, aptly, in the vigorous ‘Fecit potentiam’. In the ‘Misericordia’ Arnesen outdoes even Messrs Chilcott and Rutter for sheer singability.
The strings glow in Aaron Jay Kernis’s powerful Musica celestis and the disc is completed by two pieces by the Norway-born but now American-resident Ola Gjeilo (b1978). Tundra is highly attractive, complete with its Downton Abbey-like piano-plus-strings figuration, as is his setting of words from Whitman’s Song of the Universal – both performed with delicacy and assurance. While verging on the ‘easy listening’, this disc is full of richness and musical delight.