A Bridge of Dreams
01 December 2011
The subtitle of "A Bridge of Dreams," a 2011 album with Ars Nova Copenhagen and Paul Hillier, is "a cappella Music from the Pacific Rim," and it includes the works of composers from Australia, New Zealand, California, and China, all of which draws in part, if not entirely, on non-Western musical traditions. Lou Harrison left the accompaniment for his Mass for Saint Cecilia's Day open-ended and here Andrew Lawrence-King provides a discreet undergirding using medieval harp, psaltery, and hurdy-gurdy. It bears a strong resemblance to Medieval plainchant mass in its predominantly monophonic, melismatic writing, and its modal character. The modes, though, are Harrison's own, based on traditional Indonesian and Chinese scales. The mass is a beautifully expressive, immediately engaging piece that reveals a fresh facet of the composer's brilliantly expansive imagination. In The Seafarer, Lawrence-King plays psaltery and harp in his arrangement of music from Chinese composer Liu Sola's 2009 chamber opera, The Afterlife of Li Jiantong, over which Paul Hillier provides a magisterial narration of Kevin Crossley-Holland's translation of an Anglo-Saxon ballad. Australian composer Anne Boyd's As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams is an immensely impressive work for wordless chorus. Boyd creates a mesmerizing dreamscape that's essentially static harmonically but that's continually shifting densities and textures and is never less than sonically gorgeous. Ars Nova Copenhagen sings with chaste but warm tone, smooth blend, tonal precision, and alert musicality under the leadership of Paul Hillier. The sound of Da Capo's hybrid SACD is spacious and warmly ambient. This is an album that should be of strong interest to fans of new choral music from off the beaten path.