Schola Cantorum

Hymn to the Virgin

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This release by the small Norwegian choir Schola Cantorum comes in an oversized box containing four audiophile versions of the material. Overkill, maybe, but reviewed here is the Super Audio CD as heard on an ordinary player, and the detail and resonance of the sound as recorded in Norway's Gamle Aker church are impressive indeed, and the brain is staggered to think of the higher experiences that await those with the proper equipment. The program embodies a very old idea: songs of praise to Mary. But it is elegantly executed with a variety of mostly 20th century music from multiple countries. Devotees of the American choral scene will be pleased to hear that the music of Morten Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre is beginning to make an impact in Europe, and Whitacre's much-performed Lux aurumque is ideal for the audiophile presentation here: something new is added to the work, and the results are chilling. Beyond the American contributions are Marian pieces from England, France, Austria, Russia, Estonia, and several Scandinavian countries, all of them referring to the long tradition of music addressed to Mary (and mostly in Latin), but together making up an impressively diverse group. A very satisfying release for lovers of virtuoso choral music, and a fine demonstration album for the capabilities of high-end equipment.

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