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Copland/Barber - Dunedin Consort - Daily Telegraph

05 February 2001
Daily Telegraph
Brian Hunt

Labelled "In the Beginning" and sporting a photograph of the Horse's Head Nebula, this CD outwardly resembles one of those "spiritual" compilations through which record companies exploit classical music and religion in one fell swoop. In fact it is a fascinating programme of 20th-century American choral music, all unaccompanied, glowingly sung and recorded.
The title track is Copland's 16-minute setting of the Bible's creation story, tingling with jazz rhythms and structured with a fine sense of drama. It prepares the way for Barber's more introverted works, which sustain a quiet ecstasy whether they are secular (the dreamily lapping To Be Sung on the Water) or sacred (the Agnus Dei, Barber's own reworking of his famous Adagio). Copland's early motets provide a bracing closing voluntary.
The Scottish-based Dunedin Consort compromises 12 voices, and its smoothness and expertise verge on glossiness. Yet this suits the repertoire, as both composers applied conspicuous professional craftsmanship to genuine inspiration.

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