Classical CD Reviews

GABRIEL JACKSON: The Voice of the Bard; Now I have known, O Lord; Missa Triueriensis; O Doctor optime; Thomas, Jewel of Canterbury; Sanctum est verum lumen; Angeli, archangeli; A ship with unfurled sails; Aeterna caeli Gloria; Ave regina caelorum – Kaspars Zemitis, electric guitar (Ave regina caelorum)/ The State Choir Latvija/ Maris Sirmais – Hyperion

An absolutely magnificent disc of music that will shake you to your shoes!

Published on May 30, 2013

GABRIEL JACKSON: The Voice of the Bard; Now I have known, O Lord; Missa Triueriensis; O Doctor optime; Thomas, Jewel of Canterbury; Sanctum est verum lumen; Angeli, archangeli; A ship with unfurled sails; Aeterna caeli Gloria; Ave regina caelorum – Kaspars Zemitis, electric guitar (Ave regina caelorum)/ The State Choir Latvija/ Maris Sirmais – Hyperion CDA67976, 78:21 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

British composer Gabriel Jackson turned fifty a year ago, and in his time has managed to create a substantial body of work, especially in the choral idiom. His influences seem to be from the so-called “God squad” of John Tavener, Henryk Gorecki, and Arvo Pärt, but he goes beyond them. Whereas much of their work is intensely devotional and concentrated in a manner almost befitting a liturgical service, carefully avoiding an excess of expression, Jackson is pure expression in everything he does. There is no shielding of emotion or hiding of mannerisms; his sumptuous choral orchestrations and unyieldingly rich harmonies directly affect you right in the gut, and if he happens to cause chills to run down your spine, so much the better. And believe me, the chills run often on this disc.

Jackson’s works are all religious in nature here, though not in a doctrinaire fashion, but in one of general belief. The pieces are quite different in origin in terms of the poetry they set, from the exquisite and delicate melodic weavings of Now I have known, O Lord, with texts by Sufi mystic Al-Junaid of Baghdad, perfect in its practice of silence interrupted by sensational melody, to the amazingly brilliant and quasi pop-influenced Ave regina caelorum with texts for the feast of the Annunciation by the ever-increasingly popular Christina Rossetti. One would be hard-pressed to imagine a piece of obvious devotional quality like this married to the Concertante filigree of an electric guitar not all that far from the style of Eric Clapton, but that’s what Jackson has accomplished here, and the results are nothing short of sensational. I would purchase this disc for this one track alone, and for me to say that is really something.

But none of this shorts the quality of the other pieces. Jackson proves his Mass-mettle with Missa Triueriensis, a full-fledged liturgical work for the Truro Cathedral, a “short mass” because of the omission of the Credo, but falling spiritually if not stylistically on the model of the masses of William Byrd. Hyperion has done yeoman’s work in providing wide and deep, spacious sound. These Latvians dive into Jackson’s English idiom as well as some of his pieces capture the Latvian spirit of passion and devotion, and they perform with obvious gusto. I think Ave regina caelorum is one of the best, if not the best new choral piece I have heard in a number of years, and this release is heartily encouraged to all!

—Steven Ritter




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