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Most people attracted to this disc will have come to it through the route of first hearing on the radio or in performance the best-known item, "O magnum mysterium". It is certainly beautifully crafted, with some heart-stopping moments involving musical devices going right back to the original 16C polyphonists, such as canon, counterpoint, suspended cords and the dissonances resulting from minor seconds.
It is therefore easy to accuse him of perpetrating pastiche, yet he has tricks of his own, such as the so-called "fire-chord", frequently employed - perhaps even over-used - in the "Madrigali", which you will hear and soon recognise even if like me you didn't know what it was; it apparently consists of a B minor triad overlaid with a C. However, in addition to these devices, he also sometimes affects a decidedly Romantic lushness more in the choral-liturgical style of Brahms; thus the "Lux aeterna", also inspired by the death of his own mother, affords many instances of consolation in the manner of the Requiems by Brahms and Fauré.
For some, there is more than a touch of "New Age" blandness about these settings. I, for instance, hear his "Ubi caritas" as lovely in its limited way but very much the poor cousin to Duriflé's, whose melodies its shares, whereas the "Magnum mysterium" is more melodically inspired and memorable.
It is true that Lauridsen's more or less eschews the 20C excesses of twelve-tone serialism, although he knows when to head off any suspicion of the saccharine by adroitly dropping in some arresting intervals or running two distant keys alongside for a few bars to jolt us out of any complacency.
The performances are sung in the best English choral tradition: a round, hooty purity of tone, excellent intonation and a certain restraint whereby the sopranos are very occasionally let off the leash to soar stratospherically.
The Classic FM "Music to relax to" crowd will use this as background music to their chilled Chardonnay; nothing necessarily wrong with that but it plays into the hands of the snobs who find Lauridsen's idiom sentimental or repetitive, and are similarly rude about Eric Whitacre's choral music. I could wish, too, that the naive jollity of the fourth movement of his "Lux aeterna" did not give me a nasty case of the Rutters.
As an antidote, the "Madrigali" contain music which is spikier and more rhythmic and whose mood is decidedly in the "lamenting and complaining" Gesualdo camp - as is the music of the slower numbers such as the angst-laden "Io piango" featuring those seconds so beloved of that composer. Strange that the booklet does not acknowledge the authors of the Italian Renaissance texts Lauridsen has set or the names of the original composers beyond "Monteverdi and his contemporaries"; presumably they are such as Gesualdo and Gabrieli, but I haven't bothered to look that up.
This is very singable music, perhaps more attractive to performers than listeners. Its lack of "modernity" will be a relief to some and a cause for scorn for others; I don't think I want to listen to the whole disc through at one sitting but its finest tracks give great pleasure and "O magnum mysterium" will remain a classic of the modern choral repertoire.