Lauridsen: Nocturnes (CD Review - The Daily Telegraph, 2007)

It is two years since Hyperion introduced the music of Morten Lauridsen to a wider audience and earned a Grammy nomination for its trouble. That first volume of the West Coast American composer's religious work is complemented here by an anthology chiefly of his secular choral writing, though even here there is still a whiff of spirituality.

Mid-Winter Songs from 1983 sets five poems by Robert Graves with orchestral accompaniment in a style recalling Copland; the more intimate Les Chansons des roses turns to French poems by Rainer Maria Rilke; and the three Nocturnes set more Rilke, alongside poems by the Chilean Pablo Neruda and American James Agee. In addition there is a pair of anthems from 1970 and a serene setting of the antiphon Ave, dulcissima Maria.

What more can one say of the singing other than that it is Polyphony? This ensemble - surely one of the best small choirs now before the public - invests everything it sings with insight, crisp ensemble and tonal warmth. The Britten Sinfonia provides colourful support in the Graves cycle, while Lauridsen provides the piano accompaniments in three of the other movements, so one can assume all has his imprimatur.

Matthew Rye

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