Lauridsen: Lux aeterna (CD Review - BBC Radio 3, 2005)

Westminster Cathedral? Broadway? Estonia even? In fact it’s the shamelessly ecstatic writing of the American composer Morten Lauridsen raising alleluias at the end of his Lux aeterna. This extended work for chorus and orchestra was premièred in 1997 by the Los Angeles Master Chorale for whom it was written. And it’s performed here by Stephen Layton’s Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia.

Lauridsen has spent his life immersing himself in plain chant and renaissance polyphony and out of it he’s forged his own contrapuntally rigorous yet lusciously lyrical style. Lauridsen’s sensuous fusion of old world structures and new world spirit also characterises three motets written at the same time as Lux aeterna and accompanying it on this disc. And there’s something else besides. Twinned with the sacred works are six madrigals Lauridsen wrote in 1987. He calls them ‘Fire Songs’ because they’re linked by the single primal sonority of what he calls a ‘fire-chord’ symbolising their fevered mood. Think Monteverdi and Petrarch’s freezing fires, think Gesualdo and his voluptuous dissonances, and there you have it. Six madrigals for our time sung with all the rigorous sense and ardent sensibility you’d expect from Layton’s choir.

The flickering flames and burning desire of Amor, io sento l’alma. Stephen Layton conducting Polyphony in the wonderful acoustic of London’s Temple Church in one of six madrigals by Morten Lauridsen on Hyperion at full price together with his Lux aeterna.

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