Whitbourn: Luminosity, Collegium Regale

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Whitbourn
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Luminosity; Collegium regale; He carried me away in the Spirit; Alleluia jubilate etc
PERFORMER: Christopher Gillett (tenor), Levine Andrade (viola); Commotio/Matthew Berry; Henry Parkes (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572103

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 Luminosity is that rare artefact, a choral ballet, a seven-movement composition lasting 30 minutes, and what’s recorded here is effectively the soundtrack to a fuller realisation involving dancers, light (ultraviolet at the American premiere) and other visual content. The music itself proves striking enough in this glowingly committed performance by the Oxford chamber choir Commotio.

Whitbourn’s musical language is plain-speaking and non-virtuosic, which is not to say uninteresting. The opening ‘Lux in tenebris’ section is effectively one long vocal crescendo on simple harmonies: drama and involvement are injected by the deft terracing of the climactic sequence, and the imaginative deployment of accompanying instruments, including tanpura, gong and viola.

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The balance of the disc is filled by shorter pieces, the most significant being the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis written in 2005 for King’s College, Cambridge. This highly dramatic setting, most unusually, boasts not only a solo tenor in a cantor-like role, but also a bilingual text (English and Latin), and a tam-tam. The performance is again superbly sympathetic. Terry Blain