O Radiant Dawn

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The a cappella group Apollo5 is a smaller offshoot of the similar Voces8, participating in the activities of the same foundation and, so far, pursuing generally similar repertory, including the jazz influences of the larger group. They perform several fixed programs in concert, and O Radiant Dawn presents one of these. Here, the group sheds the jazz and instead goes backward in time. What distinguishes this recording from the common run of small-group a cappella recordings is the presence of the medieval composer Pérotin, who was active around the year 1200 at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. What's usually heard of Pérotin are his three- and four-voice "discant" sections, giant works that seem designed to fill Notre Dame to its rafters. Here, you get instead the so-called organum purum, with a stretched-out line of chant and a second added, faster-moving line. Perhaps nobody else has tried this, and it has a pleasantly mysterious effect (sample Beata Viscera II). From there the program moves forward for nearly a thousand years: through traditional songs, Renaissance works, Monteverdi, Schumann (another outlier), Vaughan Williams, Finzi, and the titular piece by James MacMillan. It's all beautifully sung, and the music seems to cohere; there is never the feeling of the obligatory touching of the bases that one sometimes gets from such collections. Highly recommended.

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