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ALBUM TITLE: Tituli; Cathedral in the Thrashing Rain
WORKS: Tituli; Cathedral in the Thrashing Rain
PERFORMER: Hilliard Ensemble; with Michelle Makarski (violin), Lynn Vartan, Javier Diaz (percussion)/Donald Crockett
CATALOGUE NO: 476 0512
A former professional singer, the American composer Stephen Hartke clearly has a nose for unusual but singable texts. Tituli is a 42-minute suite on some of the oldest surviving Latin inscriptions, including fragments and aphorisms, but also a nearly complete and very touching elegy for a six-year-old boy. The settings enrich the Hilliard Ensemble’s usual smooth four-voice close harmony with a third tenor, while violin and occasional percussion add extra colouristic layers. The result is strangely timeless, as if Hartke is trying to create a sort of early music of the distant future.


Cathedral in the Thrashing Rain is on the face of it more straightforward, a setting for the Hilliards’ regular quartet of a poem translated from the Japanese of Takamura Kotaro. But the poem is the enthusiastic but puzzled response of a Japanese tourist in Paris to Notre Dame Cathedral, and Hartke’s inclusion of occasional lines of Japanese, and his musical allusions to plainchant and medieval Notre Dame organum, highlight the gulfs between ages and cultures. Impeccable performances, recording and presentation enhance the effect of this fascinating disc. Anthony Burton