LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Fragments
WORKS: Chant & polyphony from Italy, Greece, Russia, England & France
PERFORMER: Theatre of Voices/Paul Hillier
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907276
This is another ingeniously imaginative recording from Theatre of Voices. The title Fragments not only refers to the state of the sources of many of these pieces, but also to the fragmentation of the church between East and West, and all that that implies about the different expressive worlds of their musical utterances. There is much to wonder at in this darkly glowing musical mosaic of past cultures.
A few examples will have to stand for many. From the West we discover a 14th-century Credo setting by the relatively obscure Matteo de Perugia, with a truly staggering descent in the music as Christ comes ‘down from heaven’, and with a magically shocking chord as the mystical world of ‘things invisible’ is evoked. The Greek Church offers us the timeless, mesmerising poise of the hymn ‘Enite ton Kychirion’, and in the Vesper psalm ‘Blazen muzh’ from the Russian Orthodox liturgy, the music breaths deeply and quietly like some sleeping giant. These are truly moving performances. The style of them is transliterated, of course, into the modern and Western concern for formal balance and perfect tuning – but the sounds will continue to echo in the mind long after the music has gone away. Anthony Pryer