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  Harmonia Mundi -
  HMU 807469
  Scattered Rhymes - Hillier
  Tarik O'Regan: Scattered Rhymes, Guillaume de Machaut, Gavin Bryars

Orlando Consort
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Paul Hillier (conductor)
Track listing:
Recording type:
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Reviews: 1

Review by sibelius2 April 23, 2010 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
One word review: Brilliant.

Detailed review: Brilliant! Tarik O'Regan was comletely unknown to me before I purchased this disc, but with this one recording has quickly become my second-favorite living composer. He composed the titular composition in 2006 (at age 28!) so I'm sure his name is still unfamiliar to most listeners. Harmonia Mundi to is be commended for introducing this major talent to the world with two SACDs released in 2008.

The composer explains that his "Scattered Rhymes" is very much influenced by Machaut's "Messe de Nostre Dame" which is also included on this disc. This manifests itself most clearly in the voicings: the Machaut calls for four male voices, O'Regan calls for four male voice soloists plus full choir. The texts are from fourteenth-century sources, but the music could only have been written in this century. Even when O'Regan looks backward and specifically quotes Machaut, Machaut's harmonies are so dissonant and daring that he appears to have been looking six centuries forward.

But O'Regan's forte is balancing the challenging harmonies with the accessiblity provided by his rhythmic invention. The soloists and different sections of the choir are continually given widely different rhythmic patterns which provide a constant forward momentum to the music. O'Regan occasionally moves away from this to use contrapunctal elements which will remind one of Bach or Gabrieli, even though clearly a product of this century. The results are happy, beautiful, joyous, uplifting, and just plain fun to listen to - something I never thought I would get to say about music composed in my lifetime.

None of this would matter if not for the wonderful performances by all involved. The engineering by Harmonia Mundi is up to their usual high standards, with a wide soundstage for the full choir. Each soloist and each section are very easy to locate, without which O'Regan's counterpoint and staggered entrances would never work on record. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir should be well-known to choral music enthusiasts. The Orlando Consort appear as the soloists in "Scattered Rhymes" and then have the rest of the program to themselves. This appears to be their first appearance on SACD, as it is for the music of Machaut. Their performance of the Messe is very good, and those interested in early music would enjoy this disc for that alone. But the ensemble seems not as well balanced and rythmically tight as on what remains my favorite recording of this work, by the Oxford Camerata on Naxos.

The program is filled out by additional shorter works by Machaut and O'Regan, along with music by Dufay and Bryars.

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Works: 6  

Gavin Bryars - Super flumina
Guillaume Dufay - Ave Regina celorum
Guillaume de Machaut - Douce dame jolie
Guillaume de Machaut - Messe de Nostre Dame
Tarik O'Regan - Scattered Rhymes
Tarik O'Regan - Virelai: Douce dame jolie