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22 January 2021

Beautiful a cappella sacred choral music from Ars Veritas and Schola Cantorum

by Ken Meltzer (Fanfare)

Centaur’s “Old and New Worlds” is the product of a collaboration between the male choral ensembles Ars Veritas, based in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Miami University’s (Oxford, Ohio) Schola Cantorum. Their respective conductors, Jakob Patriksson and Jeremy D. Jones, met at the American Choral Directors Association’s (ACDA) International Conductors Exchange Program (ICEP). Patriksson and Jones decided to embark upon a project encompassing a cappella works based in Gregorian chant, and the 1582 collection of Finnish and Swedish sacred medieval Latin songs (published under the title Piae Cantiones), juxtaposed with pieces by contemporary composers. Jones and Patriksson commissioned Swedish composer Per Gunnar Petersson and American composer Dominick DiOrio to contribute new works for the joint venture. All of the contemporary music, compositions by Patriksson (b. 1989), Petersson (b. 1954), DiOrio (b. 1984), and Richard Burchard (b. 1960), receive their world premiere recordings on “Old and New Worlds.” The recording took place June 3-5, 2016, at the Varnhem Abbey, founded ca. 1150 in Varnhem, Sweden. “Old and New Worlds” is a fine achievement in every respect. The combined ensembles, totaling about 20 vocalists, sing with full and beautiful tone, crystal-clear diction, and precise intonation. Their performances also radiate a captivating energy and fervent joy in the art of singing. The transitions from old to new repertoire are seamlessly achieved. This element is highlighted by the occasional grouping of old and new settings of the same text. In truth, the contemporary works are very much in the spirit of their predecessors. It is true that such techniques as syncopation, and, in the Petersson Tempest adest floridum, the injection of spoken text, are distinguishing features in the modern compositions. And I have to confess that at the conclusion of DiOrio’s Verbum caro factum est, the repeated exhortations to the Virgin Mary (“Maria!”), made me think of Tony in West Side Story. But I chalk that reaction up to what my voice teacher once pointedly and good-naturedly described as my “very active mind.” The excellent recorded sound combines the appropriate cathedral atmosphere and resonance with fine musical and textual clarity and detail. In addition to brief liner notes, there are full texts and translations. The liner notes the collaborators’ “desire to advance the male choral art through superb repertoire.” I think “Old and New Worlds” achieves that mission in great part. It’s a beautiful and uplifting recording, one that brought me considerable pleasure. Recommended.