A Bridge of Dreams
09 February 2012
Danish ensemble in music
from America and Australia
Californian plainsong? That's what you
get in Lou Harrison's 23-minute Mass in
11 sections commissioned by the St Cecilia
Society for the Preservation of Gregorian
Chant and Peking Opera in 1983. It comes
complete with a weird continuo of medieval
instruments, with scope for improvisation,
and starts close to plainsong monody; then
we get drones and organum. It's another
Harrison mix of East and West that sounds
fabulous in this acoustic.
The other composers are from Down
Under. Ross Edwards sets two psalms but
intercalates them with the names of birds in
aboriginal languages. His Kingfisher Psalms is
a rhythmic virtuoso piece requiring an underused
tarn-tarn. Jack Body is a New Zealand
ethnomusicologist who uses made-up
languages for the text of his Five Lullabies
inspired by Chinese singing techniques. Two
lullabies are boisterous, designed for paternal
delivery rather than by the conventional
mother. If the noisy ones wake the baby up
then the last one should settle it down again.
The Seafarer has a text from Anglo-Saxon
modernised by Kevin Crossley-Holland and
music by the Chinese composer Liu Sola.
The Baroque harp virtuoso Andrew
Lawrence-King has more scope than
elsewhere on this CD and Paul Hillier
himself recounts the story.
Anne Boyd's As I crossed a bridge of
dreams (1975) gives its title to the CD
and, with its rapt sostenuto, steals the show.
Almost endlessly sustained, immaculately
imagined, and - like everything else here - admirably performed.