Mike Brewer

Song of Songs

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Conductor Mike Brewer has collected pieces spanning over five centuries with texts taken from The Song of Solomon, the "Song of Songs." The English chamber choir Laudibus sings the a cappella works with wonderful authority, excellent intonation, an unusually warm blend, and high spirits. It gives loving attention to the shaping of each line, resulting in highly nuanced and expressive performances. The intriguingly diverse repertoire and fine singing make this a CD that should be of strong interest to lovers of choral music. The most impressive work is Daniel-Lesur's seven-movement Le Cantique des cantiques, written in 1952. Daniel-Lesur was a close associate of Messiaen, Jolivet, and Tournemire, and his music has a typically French sensuality and lushness. Le Cantique is scored in 12 parts, allowing for exceptionally rich harmonies and contrapuntal textures, of which the composer takes full advantage. Daniel-Lesur is especially sensitive to the eroticism of the texts, and much of the setting is appropriately playful and suggestive. The texts are taken directly from the Bible, with the exception of a Latin introduction to the final movement, linking the poetry to a Christian interpretation, and there are frequent interpolations of "Alleluia." The ending of the piece is one of the most rapturous and ecstatic "Alleluias" in the literature. Other selections that stand out are Gabriel Jackson's I am the Rose of Sharon and Francis Grier's Dilectus meus mihi, eclectic pieces that seamlessly and effectively meld Renaissance sounds with contemporary techniques. The CD also includes works by Dunstable, Palestrina, Victoria, Bouzignac, Walton, and Howard Skempton. Unfortunately, the sound tends to be boomy and breaks up unpleasantly in the louder passages.

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