Tradition and imagination from a bright young talent
Anthony Burton welcomes a fine introduction to one of England’s most promising new choral composers
The wings of the wind; Upheld by stillness; Trinity Fauxbourdons; Phos hilaron; Judas mercator pessimus; The Lord’s Prayer; The spirit breathes*; etc.
Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/stephen Layton; *Alexander Hamilton (organ) Hyperion CDA 68191 76:00 mins Owain Park, born in Bristol in 1993, is already well established in a double career as composer and choral conductor (notably as director of the up-and-coming Gesualdo Six). ★e’ll have felt very much at home here: familiar, as a former organ scholar of Trinity, Cambridge, with the college’s outstanding choir and its inspiring director Stephen Layton, and with the chapel where the warm but clear recording was made. And in the list of singers on the sessions, there he is among the basses; he even contributes one firmly confident solo.
One feature of his music is its wide range of historical reference. Medieval fauxbourdon techniques, echoes of Byrd, Sheppard and Tomkins, the drones and slow-moving harmonies of the Orthodox tradition, Latin texts previously set by Stanford, as Trinity organist, for the Choir: all these find a place in this collection, clothed in Park’s own musical language, which is contemporary in orientation but with resonant harmony which falls easily on the ear. ★e chooses texts imaginatively and has a special gift for radiant choral ‘orchestration’, effectively layering solo and tutti voices. ★e also excels at stretching virtuoso choirs such as Trinity’s to their considerable limits – as well as organs and organists; The spirit breathes was commissioned (with a specially written poem by Rowan Williams) to show off a new instrument in Canada.
Altogether, this is a welcome introduction to a composer of impressive achievement and considerable promise. Layton and his crack team of singers have done their colleague and friend proud. PERFORMANCE RECORDING
Attractive virtuosity: the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge