Evoking the transparency and tension of that "thin place" where heaven and earth meet, Mandorla features three 20th century masterpieces: the majestic Mass for Double Choir by Frank Martin, the heartfelt, folksong-inspired Fire Salmer by Edvard Grieg, and the stunning Cherubic Hymn by Howard Hanson.
Alex Ross, the music critic and writer, said Martin was "one of the great religious composers of the last two hundred years, with Messiaen his only contemporary rival. . . ." Martin withheld his Mass for Double Choir, written in 1922, for forty years, on the grounds that it was unworthy of the Lord. But in the past few decades, his Mass has gone around the world, entrancing audiences with the majesty of its language. This a capella Mass is a luminous work of intensely personal expression.
For most music-lovers, just hearing the name of Edvard Grieg conjures up phrases from his splendid Piano Concerto, inspired by the folksongs of his native Scandinavia. In this same vein, Grieg composed the beautiful Fire Salmer (Four Psalms) in the year before his death.
Finally, in a stunning duet between voice and organ, Howard Hanson creates a sound-world of rich imagery, light, and color, immersing us into a realm of reverence and worship with The Cherubic Hymn.
**Included is the First Recording of Howard Hanson's Cherubic Hymn since Hanson's own in the mid-1950's.
Premiere and Only Works
“This is a terrific recording, featuring repertoire that only a truly imaginative mind would think of combining on one disc. Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir ... a true masterpiece – one of his greatest religious works. Intimate, spiritual, deeply felt, and at the same time unceasingly varied, this is music that draws the listener into its world. The blend of voices of this forty-voice choir could hardly be bettered. They manage to retain a rich tone at the softest dynamics, and they sing with a real presence. The combination of pieces is one of the assets of this disc, but another is the very strong set of performances. Add to that a well balanced choral sound with good perspective, when heard in the two-channel stereo version, and excellent accompanying notes, and you have a complete winner.”
- “Gloriæ Dei Cantores sings this [Martin] with full vibrato right from the start, and it immediately changes the tenor of the music from austere to neo-romantic and more like Martin thought of it. This recording also plays the dynamic contrasts and consequent emotive tension to the hilt ... I enjoyed this piece [Hanson] to no end and the GDC sing it with gusto and appropriate reverence. It is most affecting. So ... great sound, performances, music, colorful and informative notes, no quibbles. Why wait?”
- “The spiritual fervor is basted with a vibrato so warm ... Best by far is the first recording in half a century of Howard Hanson's Cherubic Hymn, ear-catching, eminently accessible, making exuberant use of dialoguing organ.”
BBC Music Magazine
- “This fine new recording by Gloriæ Dei Cantores ... The soprano voices are particularly lovely- pure and radiant in the opening Kyrie. Yet the ensemble shows strength and passion in the joyous moments of the Gloria, the semiquavers of the coda flowing like a cascading fresh spring. The third setting [of Grieg's Four Psalms], comes off best with Richard K. Pugsley, who along with his colleagues conveys the glowing, monastic expression. The Gloriæ Dei Cantores singers deliver a wonderful performance [Martin], and with their Grieg and Hanson couplings, this disc can be recommended.”
- “A strong, weighty performance of the Martin Mass dominates the program. No chamber choir minimalism here; the gestures are broad, musically and theologically ... by the time the Mass is ended, you're more than ready to go in peace, so affecting is Elizabeth Patterson's staunch, majestic approach.”
“Though grounded in chant, the [Cherubic]Hymn splays outward as the plainsong breaks apart into highly accomplished counterpoint that flings out of the speakers with terrific force courtesy of the SACD engineering. I had never heard a note of this before and was quite moved by it. I think you will be, too.”
American Record Guide
Photo at top: Detail, Sculpture, Régis Demange; Design, Helen McLean. © 2004 Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, MA