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25 November 2020

A lovely blend of old and new choral music

by Henry Fogel (Fanfare)

This imaginative program of religious choral music is the result of a collaboration between two male choirs and their directors. Jakob Patriksson and Ars Veritas from Gothenburg, Sweden, and Jeremy D. Jones and Schola Cantorum of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Their joint project combines music from the past and present works, assembling them into a beautifully flowing program.

Via e-mail I asked Jones which conductor leads which performance, and whether the choirs sing together in all the works or not. His response demonstrated the unique nature of this particular collaboration: “Both choirs combined to perform each selection. It was a complete collaboration between my group and Jakob’s. We performed the “Gloria” duet (Missa orbis factor) together. Interesting to have the conductors sing! We shared the conducting responsibilities of each work in rehearsals as co-conductors.” That level of collaboration is close to unprecedented. Obviously for the recording one conductor leads each work, as notated in the headnote.

The disc contains three sections of Missa pro defunctis by the Flemish composer Johannes Ockeghem (ca. 1410–1497). Two sections, the “Introitus” and “Kyrie,” are given consecutively; the “Offertorium” comes later on. Since this is not a religious service, this approach is completely valid. In fact one of the joys of the disc is the flow of the program, with some 20th-century works intermixed with the ancient. Per Gunnar Petersson’s Tempus adest floridum comes as a delightful contrast after Ockeghem’s “Kyrie,” followed by what the notes describe as the first known polyphonic setting of the Mass ordinary, an anonymous work from the 14th century named after the city of Tournai in Belgium, where it is preserved in the cathedral’s library.

The two works by Patriksson and the other modern works, Richard Burchard’s Creator alme siderum and Dominick DiOrio’s Verbum caro factum est, provide harmonic and stylistic differences from the older pieces, but their roots are planted in that style, so the contrast is not jarring. The Petersson and DiOrio were commissioned for this joint project. I found DiOrio’s piece singularly exciting.

The performances are very spirited and well sung. There is a nice sense of ambiance around the voices. I wish that I heard a bit more variety of soft dynamic shadings, but that is a very minor complaint. Kudos to Centaur for providing texts and translations, though the program notes could have been more expansive. Overall, this is a delightful and deeply gratifying recording.