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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Gavin Bryars, The Fifth Century

Like any style of music, there are Post-modern composers who write beautiful, breathtaking works and others who either are inconsistent or just do not have the talent, sad to say. Of the whole bunch Gavin Bryars to me is decidedly in the first category. His music, basically anything I've heard of his, has that special something that comes through whatever the premise. A new CD,  The Fifth Century (ECM New Series 2495) brings us two choral works that are stunning in their sonic brilliance and reaffirm my appreciation of Bryars as an important voice of today.

The album features the extraordinary vibrato-less purity of the choral ensemble The Crossing, conducted by David Nally. It is hard to imagine a better performance of these works and the ECM sound brings out the music with a heightened brightness.

The opening title work combines the Crossing with the equally appropriate sounds of the saxophone ensemble the PRISM Quartet. Bryars brings the two groups into close intersection in harmonically uncliched, always stimulating and ravishing ways. He has perfect control over the ambient and linear dimensions as he hears them. Indeed no matter how many times I listen to this work it sounds ever fresh.

The same is true but in a somewhat more intimate way on "Two Love Songs" for female choir a capella.

I come away from this music reluctantly. I want to come back to it as soon as possible. Does the awakening of nature on these fine days have something to do with it? It seems like the open hopeful choral sounds here help "improve" nature or provide it a most evocative soundtrack. I am sure whatever the season this music will give us pause, help us revel in the sensuous mysteries of existence.

Does this sound like a strong recommendation? I hope so. Because it is. Wonderful.

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