There are several things I’ve come to expect from a Roxanna Panufnik choral composition. Music that realizes the full potential of the human voice. Music that’s beautifully crafted with innovative harmonies and voice leading. Music with a carefully chosen text and usually — taken in context with the music — has a profound message.
“Love Abide” did not disappoint. As Panufnik writes, the album celebrates “music, texts, and chants of a diversity of faiths,” all united by the common theme of love. Some of those connections are obvious, some quite subtle.
I’ve also come to expect some things from the Signum Classics label — such as exceptional choral ensembles impeccably recorded. Again, “Love Abide” didn’t disappoint. Panufnik’s music pulled from a variety of traditions. It seemed only logical that the recording would feature a variety of vocal ensembles.
The a cappella octet VOCE8 delivered intimate, crystalline performances. “Love Endureth” features close-knit harmonies, often with two adjacent notes sounding. VOCE8’s precise intonation revealed the expressive quality of such dissonances. And their blend with Kiku Day’s shakuhachi in the “Zen Love Song,” was amazing. The warmth of this bamboo flute blended seamlessly with the voices.
The chamber choir Exultate Singers provided much fuller sound for Panufnik’s “Magnificat” and Nunc dimittis.” Fuller, yet transparent — to the benefit of the music. The Colla Voce Singers also had a full sound, but one that was more homogenous.
I suspect the Love Abide Children’s Choir was created for this recording. If so, they did a good job assembling it. The voices blended wonderfully on their own (as in “Schola Missa de Angelis”). And they changed the timbres of the adult choirs they were paired in subtle and interesting ways.
I believe Roxanna Panufnik is one of the most important choral composers of our time. Give this release a listen and see if you agree.
Roxanna Panufnik: Love Abide
Colla Voce Singers; Love Abide Children’s Choir; London Mozart Players; Lee Ward
Signum Classics SIGCD564