Bryas; Maskats; Silvestrov

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bryas; Maskats; Silvestrov
LABELS: GB Records
ALBUM TITLE: Bryars; Maskats; Silvestrov
WORKS: Various
PERFORMER: Latvian Radio Choir/Sigvards Klava, Kaspars Putnins
CATALOGUE NO: BCGBCD 07
The English composer Gavin Bryars has a taste for anything off the beaten track, so listening to his CDs as they appear on his own GB label is always an education. Thanks to this one, I’ve now encountered Thomas de Quincey’s touching literary memorial to Immanuel Kant, the marvellous 13th-century Italian poet Cecco Angiolieri, and a poem in praise of photography by Pope Leo XIII. We hear them all in settings by Bryars, sung by the Latvian Radio Choir, also new to me.

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The choir’s every bit as good as Bryars says it is, with a focused and clear yet wonderfully rich sound. And it’s able to muster some first-rate soloists in Valentin Silvestrov’s ‘Lord’s Prayer’‚ and ‘Testament’‚ (two strangely moving pieces, which were another discovery). The recordings, made in two churches in the Latvian capital Riga, are a marvel, capturing all the fine detail despite the vast echoing acoustic. It’s a shame I couldn’t feel so enthusiastic about Bryars’s music. His settings of Angolieri’s poetry have a drooping melancholy, which is weirdly at odds with the reckless energy of the poetry. On Photography has some luminous moments, but it too has a pallor which eventually becomes enervating. Ivan Hewett