Berlin Radio Symphony Chorus

XL: Choral Works for 40 Voices

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The English title of this 2005 album by the Berlin Radio Choir makes it appear to be a collection of a cappella choral works in 40 parts, like the celebrated sixteenth century Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis and the contemporary XL after Spem in Alium by Antony Pitts. However, the program features pieces with a more varied number of voices and textures, from the pure monody of the Gregorian chant Veni creator spiritus and Dieter Schnebel's adaptation of J.S. Bach's four-voice "Contrapunctus I" from The Art of Fugue, to other works of multiple divisions of the mixed choir, such as Jonathan Harvey's harmonically rich Come Holy Ghost in eight parts. There is also some organ music, as Arvid Gast plays the "Contrapunctus I" as an introduction to Schnebel's choral arrangement and serves as accompanist in Purcell's Hear My Prayer, O Lord and in Zoltán Kodály's Laudes Organi. The album's French title -- Oeuvres pour grand choeur -- is more accurate, since the main point is the presentation of works for large choir; if the listener feels misled into thinking that every work is in 40 parts, there is at least the consolation of knowing that all the performances are gorgeous, the vocal blending is smooth, the sound is wonderfully clear and evenly balanced, and the music itself is uplifting and often moving.

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