Bo Hansson Endless Border

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bo Hansson
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Bo Hansson Endless Border
WORKS: Missa brevis; The I heard the singing; Salve regina; Som när handen
PERFORMER: William Baldry (organ); The Choir of Royal Holloway/Rupert Gough
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67881

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I can imagine the jerky, disjointed chanting of ‘Kyrie’ at the opening of Bo Hansson’s Missa brevis irritating as many listeners as it interests. Rather than probing deeper content, it’s a strangely skittish response to the Latin text.

Though the Gloria persists with short, staccato phrase units, a warmly lyrical episode unfolds at ‘Laudamus te’, with an impressively welling climax at ‘Domine Deus’. There’s some lovely five-part canonic writing for women’s voices in the Benedictus, and the gaunt unison lines at the beginning of the Agnus Dei distil an atmosphere of anxious mystery which is convincingly sustained throughout the movement. Overall, this Swedish composer’s setting is effective, if over-reliant on the repetition of brief cellular motifs.

The shorter, single-movement works that form the balance of the programme show a more genial composer. Of these, the glowingly expressive Som när handen, the brightly rippling Salve regina, and the mellifluous, resonantly multi-part Endless Border particularly impressive. The three dozen voices of the Royal Holloway Choir bring impressive reserves of stamina and concentration to bear on these sometimes difficult pieces.

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Terry Blain