recommended music

Morten Lauridsen: Lux aeterna
by Mark Nowakowski

Whenever I am seeking to introduce somebody to new music, or perhaps blunt their opinion of modern art, I turn to composers like Lauridsen to show the way.  Often shunned by modernists, Lauridsen's music certainly represents a clear continuity in the history of sacred music while remaining fresh and engaging to the modern ear.  Lauridsen invokes reverence in both his sacred and secular works; whether it is echoing sacred spaces or the wind of the north woods, Lauridsen's music is lovingly stark and purposeful in scope.  The two fine recordings featured in this review both highlight Lauridsen's major  choral work, the Lux Aeterna, also sharing recordings of the almost zealously lovely Ave Maria and the O Magnum Mysterium. 

While equally well-done, the two profiled recordings in this review reveal different faces of Lauridsen's art.  The 120-voice LA Master Chorale is recorded in a large ambient space with a full orchestra, lending a distant, lush, and epic quality to the recording.  The Polyphony recording, by contrast, is of a considerably smaller group with a chamber orchestra.  The closer micing of the group during the recording process reflects the performance space wonderfully, also rendering the individual lines  much easier to hear.

The LA Choral recording includes the Les Chansons Des Roses (1993), and the particularly evocative Mid-Winter Songs (1980.)  The Polyphony recording rounds out with the powerfully cinematic six Madrigali (1987), and the reverent Ubi Caritas Et Amor (1999.)  A great many composers could learn something from Lauridsen's reverence, and a great many listeners have already derived great enjoyment from his work.

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