While I thoroughly enjoyed my first listen to this album I was left a little bemused. I was in the car and it certainly made my journey more pleasurable, with some outstanding a cappella singing but as I was unable to look at the CD booklet notes I was not quite sure what it was all about. However at the end of the disc and my journey I was sufficiently intrigued as to want to know more. What we actually get are four separate pieces.
The first, “Spectre Of The Maiden Scorned” is a Concert Requiem Mass for mezzo-soprano, male voices and ensemble. It is a story, almost a mini opera, of love, greed and betrayal set in a monastery. The mezzo is Grace Durham who is suitably expressive and the music reminds me somewhat of Karl Jenkins in borrowing from a variety of sources while always remaining tuneful. I enjoyed hearing this and would like to sing it if I can persuade my choir director to try.
The three other works, all for unaccompanied male voices, are sung by six Alumni of the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge under their former conductor Graham Ross. Again the standard of musicianship is high but listening without looking at the booklet left me wondering where one piece ended and the next started. For the record they are “Cantica Sacra”, a liturgical cycle, “Kontakia”, Lenten Hymns, and “Theotokia”, Marian Hymns.
The composer is Lydia Kakabadse who was born in Southport in 1955 to a Russian/Georgian father and a Greek/Austrian mother and grew up in Altrincham, Cheshire. She was brought up in the Greek/Russian Orthodox faith and inherited a love of languages from her multi-lingual parents as well as a love of different genres of Western and non-Western music, all of which can be heard here. There are certainly echoes of John Tavener – or echoes of the sources Tavener himself borrowed from – and I am confident that listeners who enjoy Tavener’s work within the Orthodox tradition will enjoy this release, as will those who appreciate all fine a cappella singing.