Veldhuis

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Veldhuis
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Paradiso
PERFORMER: Claron McFadden (soprano), Tom Allen (tenor), Karel Gerritsma (sampler); North Netherlands Concert Choir & Orchestra/Alexander Liebreich
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10050
This work by the contemporary Dutch composer Jacob ter Veldhuis (b1951) is described as a video oratorio, and Chandos indeed promises a DVD of it – CD listeners have to be content with a few stills in the booklet. Part of the text consists of speech from the Apollo 12 space mission and the exultant voice of an evangelical preacher, and the result is like a John Williams film soundtrack, with echoes of Reich’s Different Trains, where lines are repeated, and their rhythms and cadence are echoed in the orchestra.

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The two soloists sing words from Dante’s Divine Comedy, and here the slowly rotating harmonies of Górecki aren’t far away. There’s even a passage which rocks between two chords, which Holst did better in The Cloud Messenger almost 100 years ago. The occasional stratospheric soprano writing, beautifully delivered by McFadden, recalls the early Tavener of In alium. And in the more exultant passages the shadow of John Adams lies long, most embarrassingly over the orgasmic cries of a woman straight out of a porn flick. So, original it ain’t, but the soft-centred tonal harmony and soaring melodic lines, together with the feelgood words and cosmic aspirations will doubtless have an appeal.

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The recording, taken from the first performances in 2001, could hardly be bettered, with commitment and luscious tone from the two soloists, and glittering sounds from the orchestra, but the piece itself doesn’t dig beneath the surface. Schoenberg once said that there was plenty of good music still to be written in the key of C major. This isn’t it. Martin Cotton