It's heaven on six larynxes, writes Jessica Duchen. Recorded in 2009, the singing the ensemble offers is not merely attentive and precise, but ideally balanced and soft as new-spun silk.
This statement may sound a little strange, but this could be the ideal album for people who think they don’t like The King’s Singers. They might have to think again. This rich mix of compositions from the 16th century to the 21st, from Lassus to Larsen is a feast of rapt, still, twilit music, all delivered with such beautifully wrought care and balance that one would be hard-pressed not to surrender to its beauty within a matter of bars.
One advantage of The King’s Singers’ six-part a cappella ensemble is that they can perform pieces that rarely make it into concert halls. Thus the collection includes works by Richard Strauss, Schumann, Brahms, Saint-Saëns and Elgar that are extraordinarily lovely, but probably unfamiliar to most. The overarching theme of evening means that despite the eclectic mix of centuries and styles, nothing in the succession of pieces jars. Instead, there’s a rather touching sense of continuity as composers and poets over the centuries respond in their own ways yet with similar wonderment to the subtleties of sunset and the emotions inspired by the onset of night.
The American composer Libby Larsen’s cycle A Lover’s Journey (dating from 2001) brings the disc a fresh and inspiring contemporary twist, ending with a sensitive setting of Shakespeare’s ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’. A few further highlights inclued the polyphonic marvels of Wilbye’s ‘Draw On, Sweet Night’, the lighter, plangent Saint-Saëns ‘Sérénade d’Hiver’ with its softly humorous solo interjections, and to finish, Arthur Sullivan pipping them all to the post with a nudge towards tears in ‘The Long Day Closes’.
Recorded in 2009, the singing the ensemble offers is not merely attentive and precise, but ideally balanced and soft as new-spun silk. It’s heaven on six larynxes.
Jessica Duchen’s music journalism has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. She is the author of a number of novels (most recently Ghost Variations, published in 2016), biographies and plays. A recent project included an opera libretto for composer Roxanna Panufnik (for Garsington Opera 2017). Her popular blog JDCMB has run since 2004.
Performance: five stars Sound: five stars
Romance du Soir The King’s Singers Signum SIGCD147