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Audio CD, 31 July 2020
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'After Silence', the new self-released double-album from Voces8, celebrates the power of music and voicing the inexpressible. This unique four-chaptered album, inspired by the British writer Aldous Huxley, marks the ensemble's 15th anniversary and is a major turning point in release strategies for classical music. As communities around the world have united together through the power of singing, this album celebrates the capacity of the human voice to express our innermost feelings. A quote from Arvo Pa¨rt nestled in the booklet notes sums this up: 'The most sensitive musical instrument is the human soul. The next is the human voice. 'The choral works showcased in this project have been carefully compiled for their thematic power and inexhaustible capacity to express the inexpressible. In the essay from which the title After Silence is taken 'The Rest is Silence', Aldous Huxley offers his thoughts on the essential force of music. The most profoundly significant constituents of our being, he says, include our responses to beauty, pleasure, pain, ecstasy and death. These can best be 'experienced, not expressed' through silence, and after silence, through music.
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The two disc compilation comprise four thematic unities that voice primal experiences that have been held sacrosanct in human culture since time immemorial: 'Remembrance', invoking death, loss, and the return to earth; 'Devotion', focusing on the flames of love, sacred and secular; 'Redemption', seeking renewal and the breath of life; and 'Elemental', where the ebb and flow of nature meets the search for purity.
The compilation sets standards of excellence from its conceptualization through its implementation. The thought given to the selection of title, the exceptional quality of the liner note in both form and content, the selection of choral repertoire, employing a variety of genres and sound worlds and illuminated by a wide range of choral textures and the meticulous preparation and practice of the choir culminating in a sublime rendition generates to the listener a unique feeling of inspiration, gratification and fulfillment.
The title - 'After Silence' - was inspired from a text by Aldous Huxley: 'From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy of death - all things that are fundamental, all things that to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence. After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.'
A significant effort was invested in selecting individual chorals from eminent composers active between the 16th and the 21st century and include William Byrd, Claudio Monteverdi, J.S. Bach, Gabriel Faure and Arvo Part; Two beautiful chorals which are included in the concluding part of the compilation, were specifically commissioned by Voces8 and are given here their premiere recording, these are 'Vertue' composed by Jonathan Dove (2019) and 'Elemental Elegy' (2019) by the Swedish composer Marten Jansson.
This double CD has however won me over completely. It's absolutely wonderful, containing a really interesting and diverse selection of material, beautifully sung throughout. One senses the group is reaching new heights under the now very assured direction of Barnaby Smith (their live performances of Bach's St Matthew Passion and Handel's Messiah on YouTube are simply brilliant). Very glad to have purchased.
An excellent intro to this virtuosic a capella group and music which is balm to the soul at just about any time of day. Cannot wait to get to see this lot in a live performance.