Beyond All Mortal Dreams

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Clausen,Ferko,Fissinger,Gjeilo,Hawley,Paulus,Stucky & Willan
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Vocal works by Clausen, Ferko, Fissinger, Gjeilo, Hawley, Paulus, Stucky & Willan
PERFORMER: The Choir of Trinity College, Cambrige/Stephen Layton
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67832

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‘Predominantly tonal and broadly accessible’ is note-writer Gabriel Crouch’s summation of the American choral idiom, and it aptly fits the music on this Trinity College programme. That is not to say it’s easy to perform effectively: Stephen Paulus’s Longfellow setting The day is done sounds technically unprepossessing on casual listening, but its carefully regulated cadences and the composer’s modifications of the poem’s strophic form need pinpoint execution if blandness is to be avoided – which it is, very successfully.
 
It’s harder to differentiate the rather mild-mannered Liturgical Motets of Healey Willan (an odd choice anyway, as he’s Anglo-Canadian, not American), but William Hawley’s gorgeously fluid Two Motets focus the attention sharply, their liberal use of suspended harmonies an acid test for the accuracy of a choir’s tuning, and one the Trinity singers pass impeccably. 
 
The melismatic and pan-tonal episodes in Frank Ferko’s colourful Hildegard Triptych provide further moments of technical challenge, but in the fourth year of Stephen Layton’s directorship the Trinity choir’s sense of corporate ease and confidence is such that nothing phases them. The singing is beautifully blended, the parts sensitively balanced, the absence of spurious vibrato a constant pleasure. Typically outstanding Hyperion sound caps this warmly recommendable issue. Terry Blain