Album Reviews

David Vernier
Classics Today – 9/9, June 2020
“First-rate performers…an excellent performance…Gloriae Dei Cantores and its director Richard K. Pugsley are not just another fine choir interested in presenting a program of Pärt’s music. They went into this project with an extraordinary commitment to not only know the notes, but also to know the composer. And, not surprisingly, all of that translates into a recording of deeply felt performances that are always mindful of allowing the unadorned simplicity, the stark beauty and unpretentiousness of Pärt’s music to flower…But the proof is in the singing, and here you have it – an exemplary “American” sound that contrasts distinctly with the Estonian, German, and British choirs who’ve also championed Pärt’s music.”
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Steven Winn
San Francisco Classical Voice, May 2020
“In a substantial and gratifying recording by the Massachusetts ensemble Gloriæ Dei Cantores, it’s the variety of Part’s expressive powers over many decades, not the sameness, that shines through in six sacred works. The Naxos disc…showcases virtuosic solo singing and ensemble cohesion. The whole is the sum and then some of its excellent constituent parts. Richard K. Pugsley conducts with clarity, sensitivity, and an instinct for high-impact moments. The performances throughout radiate conviction and urgency, a belief in every phrase that’s sung or played.”
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Aaron Keebaugh
New York Classical Review, July 2020
“The singers work their way through Pärt’s score with the grace of a chamber ensemble…Other passages reveal the full powers of the singers, which together unfold the lines with sweep and assurance…The harmonies here are so finely tuned that the overtones themselves become part of the musical fabric. Gloriae Dei Cantores, with its fine tone and resonance, excels at such passages and delivers phrases that swell into resplendent statements.”
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Andrew Mellor
Gramophone, September 2020
“The first from America to have recorded Pärt: enunciation is superb and corporate vocal tone distinctive…The choir’s singing combines an engaged and front-footed delivery…I would relish the chance to hear them singing well-prepared Anglican chant….That Gloriae Dei Cantores is a high–end and exceptionally well-drilled choir is in no doubt. There are plenty of moments that prove it…impressive.”

Ronald Grames
Fanfare, May 2020
“The new collection is the work of Richard K. Pugsley and the 30-voice Gloriæ Dei Cantores…Their text-centered approach to these works is characterized by him as “sung prayer,” and the resulting engagement of this choir of believers, members of a Benedictine community, is utterly captivating…The Stabat Mater – this major work…is a miracle of intricacy, near-perfect symmetry, and profound simplicity. Pugsley’s choir reveals all this while emphasizing the spiritual core of the work: the “immeasurable pain of the event and potential consolation,” as Pärt described it…Pugsley includes Pärt’s settings of two familiar canticles…There are a number of excellent recordings of each…but these new ones are special. Again, one is amazed by how deeply felt the performances are…In L’Abbe Agathon…A recording of this version has been released by Hillier (ECM)…This new recording is superior, especially in the dramatic involvement of the soloists…and the chorus…The excellence of the ensemble and its director is known worldwide thanks to its numerous recordings and international tours. The engineering in stereo and surround is first-rate… ”
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Mark Werlin
HR, May 2020
5 Stars Performance and Stereo Sonics
“In “Stabat Mater: Choral Works by Arvo Pärt”, a collection of sacred works for choir, organ and strings, vocal ensemble Gloriæ Dei Cantores weave a musical tapestry out of the inextricable strands of worldly and spiritual life…The members of vocal ensemble Gloriæ Dei Cantores perform music not as a profession in the secular sense of the word, but as a religious vocation…The ensemble’s concerts and recordings are distinguished by a devotional character that arises from their ongoing practice of choral services in the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts…In preparation for this recording, each member committed to studying and reporting on Arvo Pärt’s compositional style, demonstrating a level of engagement well beyond that of most professional classical organizations…Conductor Richard K. Pugsley elicits from the choir a wide range of emotional expression, from the anguished call to share in the pain of the dying son, to the soft hush of weeping in compassionate solidarity with the bereaved mother…The sumptuous and detailed DSD recording was engineered in DSD by Brad Michel and Dan Pfeiffer…For all lovers of contemporary sacred choral music, and as an alternative perspective on the music of Arvo Pärt, this recording is highly recommended.”
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Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, May 2020
“5 Stars Gloriæ Dei Cantores has rarely sounded better than here. Intonation is spot on, emotional fervency at a high level, and the Super Audio recording captures them in all their magnificent fullness. There are few choral groups that not only perform, but believe in the texts they are singing, and this commitment to the spirit and the word enhances the communicative ability in a manner than most similar ensembles can only envy. A fantastic recording.”
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John Quinn
MusicWeb International, May 2020
“On this present disc, Richard K Pugsley shapes the music expressively…it’s valuable to hear the vocal lines and the austere harmonies with the clarity that’s in evidence on this new recording…The music (Stabat Mater) has no lack of delicacy where appropriate but the more dramatic moments emerge with greater force…The performance is very convincing, right from the very sorrowful opening…The end is masterly…This performance by Gloriæ Dei Cantores is very successful.”
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Henry Fogel
Fanfare, May 2020
5 Stars An exquisite disc of choral music by Arvo Pärt
“There have been a number of recordings of Stabat Mater. This one stands near or at the top of the competitive pile. Although much of the music is marked by the typical inward-looking quietness we associate with Pärt, there are contrasting sections of great drama. Conductor Richard K. Pugsley and his choral and instrumental forces scale everything perfectly…There are many discs featuring Pärt’s choral writing…this is one of the finest…Their intonation is impeccable, their blending of voices is complete, and their ability to produce ethereal pianissimi while maintaining tonal body is very special.”
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James Manheim
All Music – Editor’s Choice, 9/10
“The choir Gloriae dei Cantores, and its director, Richard K. Pugsley, have emerged as prominent American champions of Arvo Pärt’s music, with a distinctive sound to match…It brings a fresh feel to Pärt , more passionate and intimate than usual.”
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Philip Greenfield
American Record Guide, July 2020
“With a full complement of well–trained singers on the job, their sound is pure enough to convey the depth of Pärt’s spiritual message, but the palette of colors is deeper and richer…The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis come alive in a smooth, clear timbre regulated by pinpoint dynamic control. The Salve Regina has never sounded more hushed and prayerful.”
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Michael Huebner
Classical Voice North America, November 2020
“Gloriae Dei Cantores has amassed a wide repertoire in roughly 60 self-produced CDs…so its recent release serves to broaden…and elevate this astonishing Estonian composer to the mainstream…focused…more on religious fervor and near-operatic passion….The works…reveal a composer who has found his maturity and [the] performers express it mightily…Sopranos reach heavenly heights…powerfully reverent…pure expression.”
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Raul da Gama
The Whole Note, November 2020
“The disc takes its name from Stabat Mater but also consists of other masterfully performed still and contemplative choral works….You couldn’t ask for a
better end to this disc. Yet the build-up to it is extraordinary because Gloriæ Dei Cantores, directed by Richard K. Pugsley, has interiorized Pärt’s spirit – indeed his very soul – as they traverse his music to an unprecedented degree of poignancy, with beautifully moulded choral textures and colours.”
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Clare Stevens
Choir & Organ, September 2020
“This is a very polished recording, confidently performed and sumptuously produced. It is presented as a celebration of Pärt’s music and an exploration of his compositional techniques, notably his use of tintinnabuli and the dramatic effect of silence.”

Hugo Papbst
Classique News (France), May 2020
“The works gain immediate sincerity, embodied by a collective that expresses dynamics and momentum, aspirations, sense of the texts, fascinating contrasts, even spiritual elation…Familiar with Pärt’s choral writing, including singing and presenting it on tour…the singers of the Gloriae Dei Cantores ensemble honestly display the fervor that carries the whole choral structure. The Stabat Mater touches and captivates with its direct expressiveness, and its grace which is accomplished…The performers of this program offer a true, invested, and often astounding interpretation.”
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Silver Tambur
Estonian World (Estonia), May 2020
“A new Arvo Pärt album climbs to number five in the Billboard classical chart. The latest album featuring the choral works Pärt is climbing up the classical chart of Billboard, the music industry standard record chart in the United States. “Stabat Mater: Choral Works by Arvo Pärt” debuted at number 15 in the chart but has now made it to the top five in one of the largest classical music markets of the world. The album has already earned many positive reviews in the US.”
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Katalin Fittler
Gramofon (Hungary), October 2020
“As a matter of fact, the “magic” that Pärt is now known for – bringing that sound to life – is
certainly at least as much of an experience as listening… There is no doubt that it commands one’s attention…The recording can be listened to endlessly, sniffing the listener like a vortex – and when the sounds fall silent and only echo further inside us, we feel a peculiar catharsis: somehow we have become more or better.”
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Paul Riley
BBC, August 2020
“Bells, chant and silence enshrine the trinity of elements comprising Pärt’s tintinnabuli style and, rooted in liturgical worship, Richard K. Pugsley’s Cantores [are] an obvious fit…Intimate, prayerful, the Salve Regina is a highlight.”

Dr. Matthias Longe
Klassik (Germany), October 2020
“Without a doubt, inspired choral singing – the texts are never obscured by the professional smoothness…which clearly follows the spiritual aspect of Pärt’s artistic claim….Richard K. Pugsley often has all of this played with appropriate restraint…Dynamically, the interaction of conductor and choir results in a finely graduated picture, convincingly controlled and with beautiful concentration. Technically, the sound image is spatially wide and at the same time highly concentrated, and appropriately staggered…Singing simple lines simply is an essential secret of Arvo Pärt…So much is inspired.”
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Linda Holt
ConcertoNet (Paris), November 2020
“Under the direction of conductor, Richard K. Pugsley, these works dating from 1985 to 2008 engage the intellect and stir and deepen the emotions…Stabat Mater…a work of crushing beauty…is the oldest Pärt work on this album, but without question, the most gripping and deeply moving. Pugsley and the Gloriæ Dei Cantores deserve the highest conceivable praise for performing this hymn at the level of commitment and excellence it deserves…It is for this touching replication of both pain and transcendence that Pärt’s Stabat Mater is a masterpiece for all time. You do not have to be Christian to appreciate this staggering performance by Gloriæ Dei Cantores. You just have to be alive.”
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Ken Meltzer
Fanfare, October 2020
“A new CD from the marvelous vocal ensemble Gloriae Dei Cantores and their Director Richard K. Pugsley surveys choral works by Arvo Pärt…Pärt’s sound world, exemplified here by his choral music, demands performers with pure and beautiful tone, and impeccable intonation. Sometimes, for expressive purposes, Pärt also extends his vocalists to their limits. In all instances, the Gloriae Dei Cantores…acquits itself in superb fashion. The singing is unfailingly secure, lovely, and expressive. This of course is a tribute to the members of the ensemble and their Director, Richard K. Pugsley, who leads with an assured and sensitive hand throughout. The soloists all sing well, and the string ensembles in L’abbé Agathon and the Stabat Mater play with a beauty of tone and unanimity of articulation and intonation comparable to their vocal colleagues… Overall, this is a magnificent representation of first-rate choral music. The recording, made in the Orleans, MA The Church of the Transfiguration, is brimming with warmth and atmosphere, as well as a clarity befitting the repertoire. ..Highly recommended. ”
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Top40-Charts (NY, NY), May 2020
“Gloriæ Dei Cantores (Singers to the Glory of God), under the direction of Richard K. Pugsley, is dedicated to promoting the best of sacred choral music. Several years ago, they began an in depth study of Arvo Pärt, immersing themselves in his compositional style. They sang his music in worship, on tour and in an extensive concert series at the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, MA. Their repertoire includes Arvo Pärt’s larger works such as Passio and Stabat Mater as well as the lesser known and performed L’abbé Agathon and Berliner Mass.”
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Robert Benson
Classical CD Review, May 2020
“The first-class Gloriae Dei Cantores, a 30-member ensemble gives dedicated performances with a small instrumental ensemble. The recordings were made in Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Mass. Engineers have captured the performances in outstanding multi-channel audio placing the listener right inside the resonant church.”
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Alexander Soloviev
Musical Life (Russia), July 2020
“I would like to note the organically built ensemble balance and rich bass with an excellent profunda timbre, rare for Western choirs…The score for L’abbe Agathon…resurrects a scene from an ancient legend of the 4th century about a chance meeting of the hermit Agathon and a leper. The exquisite expression of the French language among the singers is enhanced by the timbres of the violas and cellos…Salve Regina…is an example of an exceptionally natural combination of timbres…I consider it important to recommend this disc to your library of contemporary music.”
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Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, May 2020
“This grave and beautiful new SACD…blows an unexpectedly warm breeze on the Estonian composer’s music…These works expand our knowledge of who Pärt is as a composer, and they are performed with great polish—but also with a purity that feels uniquely unaffected—by Gloriæ Dei Cantores and by soloists from the choir…There is a warmth here that one does not as readily hear in European recordings of these works. Indeed, the closing minutes of the Stabat Mater are heartbreaking on this new recording.”
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Seraphim Hanisch
OrthoChristian (Russia), May 2020
“In listening to this disc, I cannot imagine a better interpretation of this music, both technically and spiritually, than what is presented here. A true meeting of East and West, neither side excluding the other, but standing united in the Truth of Christ. This is what happens on this disc.

The recording is superb. Maestro Pugsley, Paul Tingley co-produced this record, and the recording engineers Brad Michel and Dan Pfeiffer did a superlative job bringing this recording to life. The presence of the choir and orchestra is intimate and spacious at the same time, with all nuances of voice and instrument flawlessly presented to the listener.”
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Uwe Krusch
Pizzicato (Luxembourg), February 2020
“Gloriae Dei Cantores develop the flow of the music with a sense of creative sensitivity…Thus it becomes clear that Arvo Pärt’s music conveys a universal message. The soloists are totally convincing with contributions that stand out…With technical preparation that leaves nothing to be desired, the recording, released on the ensemble’s own label, gives a successful impression of these choral works.”
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Giorgio Bagnoli
GB Opera (Italy), April 2020
“Gloriae Dei Cantores…under the direction of Richard K. Pugsley, interprets these works with great technical mastery (homogenity, attention to dynamics, phrasing)…creating pure atmospheres of enchantment, which truly touch the heart and soul of the listener, transporting them to a high and profound spiritual dimension.”
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Daniel Morrison
Fanfare, May 2020
“5 Stars Extraordinary, profoundly moving music, superbly performed. I previously encountered the Massachusetts-based choral ensemble Gloriæ Dei Cantores in its recording of Rachmaninoff’s -Night Vigil, reviewed by me and others and included on my 2017 Want List. Their rendition of that work was distinguished by an unearthly serenity, an intensely devotional feeling, and a sense of deep exaltation, qualities that I attributed to the performers’ profound belief in the religious content of the work. The performances of works by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt on this disc leave a similar impression, as well as being technically excellent. The SACD stereo sound of this release is excellent…This release contains extraordinary, profoundly moving music, superbly performed, and is recommended to all lovers of choral music.”
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Aaron Keebaugh
Chicago Classical Review, July 2020
“With superb sound quality, the recording captures the fine acoustic of the Church of the Transfiguration, where the works were recorded. Conductor Richard Pugsley reveals the details of each composition with a rare sensitivity and luminosity.”
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C. Michael Bailey
All About Jazz, May 2020
“Gloriæ Dei Cantores performances equal or better the many Pärt recitals found on ECM records and elsewhere. The super audio hybrid programming pays off with an efficiently realized presence…These performances are significant additions to the Pärt discography.”
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Francisco Salazar
Opera Wire (Australia), May & September 2020
“Gloriae Dei Cantores performs Arvo Pärt’s acclaimed Stabat Mater, Richard K. Pugsley conducts the famed masterwork which includes a number of major choral works…The recording offers a unique cross-section of Pärt’s choral works, revealing the heart, soul, and mind of the master composer. The Stabat Mater was written to express the passion, agony, and love of Mary at the foot of the cross of her son.
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Colin Clarke
Fanfare, October 2020
“The standard of performance is…high, and…dedicated. The superb, close recording ensures one is constantly engaged. The title of the disc is Stabat Mater, and it is with a setting of this that the program climaxes. But there is a succession of pieces leading up to it that are no less enthralling. The brief Peace upon You, Jerusalem, a setting of Psalm 122 scored for women’s voices, is fresh as a daisy. It requires great skill and. control to sing, particularly at those moments when the texture thins to just one voice, or when one voice peels away from another by a semitone. (In L’Abbe Agathon) Harmonies can act as windows of light in this decidedly liturgical setting. This piece asks huge amounts of the participants: perfect pitching from the choir to ensure the clashes remain maximally expressive, and that the more radiant harmonic openings-out achieve the desired Affekt…In Stabat Mater – Three-part choir meets three-part strings, the latter linking the sections of the texts with infectious dance rhythms (superbly realized here) as well as underpinning the choral singing unforgettably; equally unforgettable are the moments when the choir is heard a cappella, or when the upper voices demonstrate an almost supernatural sense of control…As a disc of purely Pärt, this presents 70 minutes of exquisite spiritual power. ”
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Aaron Keebaugh
Boston Classical Review, July 2020
“The singers work their way through Pärt’s score with the grace of a chamber ensemble…Other passages reveal the full powers of the singers, which together unfold the lines with sweep and assurance…The harmonies here are so finely tuned that the overtones themselves become part of the musical fabric. Gloriae Dei Cantores, with its fine tone and resonance, excels at such passages and delivers phrases that swell into resplendent statements.”
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Frédéric Muñoz
Res Musica (France), October 2020
“Gloriæ Dei Cantores knows how to subtly create atmospheres where sound depths are in contrast to luminous climaxes. The interpretation remains serene, masterly, almost enchanting. The choir and the instruments bring an atmosphere of warmth and peace to this reading. The conductor Richard K. Pugsley inhabits the music at the limits of tempo and tension…The sound recording is remarkably airy, freeing the voices and strings, making them celestial and soaring. The SACD support gives a perfect balance. Through the other pieces, including a splendid Magnificat and a Salve Regina freely using the continuous sounds of the organ, Arvo Pärt confirms the expression of an inner song of deep spirituality, designed for planetary sharing: a message of comfort to humanity.”
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Ian Davies
London Review (Canada), October 2020
“The recent release Arvo Pärt – Stabat Mater by Gloriae Dei Cantores (Singers to the Glory of God) is a phenomenal achievement that celebrates the music of renowned Estonian composer Arvo Pärt…The resulting album is full of exquisite performances that wash over your soul with a warmth of spirit that is undeniable.”
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Rafael de Acha
Music Notes, October 2020
“Arvo Pärt’s choral music by the extraordinary Gloriae Dei Cantores on their own label…includes 6 works by the Estonian master. An ethereal hymn to the Virgin mother, Salve Regina and an intensely emotional Magnificat, a heartfelt Nunc dimitis, and the closing Stabat Mater…exemplify the compositional breadth and depth of Arvo Pärt…Pärt’s compositions are impeccably sung by the Gloriae Dei Cantores: immaculately musical, pure of tone, perfect in diction, the superb ensemble is powerfully led by Richard K. Pugsley in an album that should provide the listener, as it did me, with a quiet hour of utterly peaceful music.”
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Bernie Koenig
Cadence Jazz World, July 2020
“The Stabat Mater itself…has tremendous emotional content…Like all great works…the more carefully one listens, the greater the rewards. And as someone familiar with the work of Pärt, I can say this is an excellent performance…Anyone interested in compositions or choral works, regardless of genre will surely enjoy this wonderful recording.”
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Mark Estren
TransCentury Communications, May 2020
“…These are works that reach out to audiences’ emotions and provoke contemplative, uplifting and calming features that are intuitively understandable. All six works sung by the marvelous Gloriæ Dei Cantores choral group under Richard K. Pugsley on a new SACD from GDC Recordings speak beautifully to a modern audience…Stabat Mater, the longest work here, produces an immediate feeling of eternity…and weaves a 25-minute spell of resolution and resignation, of acceptance, in musical language that certainly fits the topic (the suffering of the Virgin Mary at Christ’s Crucifixion) but that also ultimately proffers a message of hope…Magnificat is praise by Mary, and Pärt invests it with an otherworldliness that requires a perfectly balanced chorus with clear enunciation in even the quietest passages – providing a fine example of just how good Gloriæ Dei Cantores is. Nunc dimittis specifically asks God to allow His servant to depart in peace, and here the sense of peacefulness is palpable throughout… Heartfelt and uplifting…The simplicity and directness of the setting (L’Abbe Agathon) makes it almost liturgical – helping turn this release as a whole into an experience that is both calming and highly meaningful.”
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KathPress (Austria), May, 2020
“The recent work by the Estonian Russian Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt – “Stabat Mater” – has been released on CD. The performers are the choir and orchestra of the US ensemble “Gloriae Dei Cantores” under the direction of Richard K. Pugsley. According to music experts, the sacred music composition represents an impressive example of the encounter between the orthodox view and classic Western training. “East” and “West” are united in Pärt’s new work, according to the unanimous view of the experts.”
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Maria Nockin
Fanfare, September 2020
“The Cantores bring it to life in an exquisite rendition…The name of the recording is Stabat Mater (The Mother Stood) and it is the final piece on the disc. The music creates a picture of the grieving mother standing beside her Son as he hangs on the cross…As this picture becomes real in the minds of the listening supplicants through meditation, they mentally stand with Mary at the foot of the cross and hope someday to join her in paradise. The emotional punch of the group’s singing is monumental here…The Cantores have sung all over the world and have made numerous fine recordings. This is an exquisite rendition of Arvo Pärt’s compositions, both for musicality and for well balanced sound. I think anyone who is seriously interested in Liturgical music should own this disc.”
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Thomas May
Memeteria, November 2020
The best-of lists…are being finalized all around. One sure contender is this remarkable collection of choral music by Arvo Pärt from Gloriæ Dei Cantores. The Cape Cod-based choir, which is led by Richard K. Pugsley, has a deep affinity for the Estonian composer. Each member of the choir has participated in study projects on Arvo Pärt’s style and his approach to text setting. The recording offers a powerful sampling of the range of Pärt’s choral writing, including his settings of Salve Regina and Nunc dimittis and L’abbé Agathon…The exuberant Peace Upon You, Jerusalem and the Magnificat are juxtaposed with Pärt’s unforgettable setting of the sorrowful Stabat Mater, the culminating work on this collection. Originally commissioned to mark the centenary of Alban Berg’s birth in 1985, the piece was expanded in a new version that premiered in 2008…These six selections span a large part of Pärt’s career and encourage a state of deep listening, far past the…noise of the year now coming to a close.”
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