O magnum mysterium – the opening words of Midnight Mass at Christmas – also express the shepherds’ awe upon seeing the child in the manger. The music of the festive season describes the great contrasts of the nativity. Here we find music inspired by the sense of wonder that the shepherds and the wise men must have felt on coming face to face with the great mystery.
This collection of music for Christmas is a good demonstration of the choir’s versatility, including Renaissance motets, traditional European carols in a variety of languages, and several contemporary works. The album’s title, Magnum Mysterium, provides the theme around which the CD is organized. The choir sings six settings of the Latin text, including versions by composers as diverse as Palestrina, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Poulenc, Morten Lauridsen, and Javier Busto. The demanding scores show off the ensemble’s strengths: tone that’s pure and warm, a beautiful blend, clean coordination of articulation, interpretive sensitivity, and flawlessly accurate intonation. The quality of singing is especially evident in a piece like the Lauridsen, which is familiar from many excellent recorded performances, but Grex Vocalis gives it a sheen and warmth that make it standout from other interpretations. The Busto, the least familiar of the Magnum Mysterium settings included, is an attractive contribution to the choral repertoire. It begins with a gorgeous choral murmuring that’s quite unlike anything else, before settling into a more conventional, but rhapsodic setting of the text. The CD is filled out with a variety of folk songs and carols, some sung in their original languages, and some in Norwegian. The sound is immaculate and nicely resonant. The CD should be of interest to listeners looking for a mix of familiar and unfamiliar a cappella Christmas repertoire that’s sung beautifully.
Review from allmusic.com
2L (2L 26), 2004
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