Bo Skovhus

Richard Blackford: Mirror of Perfection

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British composer Richard Blackford has devoted a large part of his career to dramatic music -- opera, ballet, incidental music, and film scores -- but he has also written a number of large scale choral works. Mirror of Perfection, for soprano, baritone, chorus, children's choir, and orchestra, uses texts by Saint Francis of Assisi. The composer has written that the simple lyricism of the music is intended to reflect the simplicity and directness of Francis' life and faith. The seven movements are varied in their moods, but the consistency of the music's harmonic and melodic simplicity, which echoes John Rutter, can wear thin in a work that lasts nearly 40 minutes. The fourth movement, which features the soprano soloist, is the most interesting, largely because it's musically the most adventurous in its use of dissonance and an expanded harmonic and gestural vocabulary. The sixth movement, too, stands out because of its endearingly quirky rhythms. Although the work as a whole may seem too safely conventional -- Blackford tends to fall back on obvious patterns -- to be fully satisfying, it must be admitted that as individual pieces, the movements are graceful and shapely, with some lovely sonorities, and the choral and orchestral writing is never less than elegant. The work is likely to be most attractive to fans of Rutter's choral music. Soprano Ying Huang negotiates the very high part with ease and with a full, velvety tone. The range of the baritone part is too wide to be comfortable; Bo Skovhus soars in its upper reaches but sounds strained in the sections that would more appropriately be scored for a bass. The Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, the Ballard Lane Preparatory School Choir, and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta perform with warmth and sensitivity under the composer's direction. The sound is mostly good, with nice balance, but is not especially clear, so the chorus sometimes sounds fuzzy.

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