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Ešenvalds is a little notorious for using lush modern neo-tonality alongside – often literally alongside – a more pungent 20th-century manner, but he makes it work and his ability to make complex texts sing is second to none. The settings here are of Thomas Aquinas, Silouan the Athonite (whom Thomas Merton believed to be the most spiritual monk of the modern age), the poets Wilhelm Müller and Paulann Petersen, and the Catholic liturgy. O salutaris hostia is a simple prayer woven together out of continuously overlaid phrases that put considerable demand on the singers. The Heaven’s Flock begins wordlessly and weaves a folk legend from the Pacific Northwest into as glorious an evocation of the life beyond as In paradisum at the end of the set. But it’s the shimmering handbells on Translation that really captures Ešenvalds’s ability to blend instrumental sound and voices to the extent that one hardly knows which is which. Superb work from the Portland choir and players.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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