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Kim André ARNESEN (b. 1980)
Kantorei / Joel Rinsema
rec. 2016, First Plymouth Congregational Church, Denver, USA
NAXOS 8.573788 [66:33]

The Norwegian composer Kim André Arnesen is best known for his choral music, especially that written for a cappella choir but also accompanied by either piano or organ. His style is grounded in the modern choral tradition, making imaginative use of the different voices; his style is reminiscent of the Americans Morten Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre, but also of John Rutter and Herbert Howells, especially in his use of melisma. Where Arnesen excels, is in taking these influences and moulding them into his own, particular sound. Howells used famously to visit choirs and venues unannounced so that he could experience their sound in order to execute commissions better, and there is a similar feeling here. Arnesen was composer in residence with the choir Kantorei during the 2015-16 season, and I find the works on this disc that he composed for them to be the most satisfying.

The first piece on this disc, “Even when He is Silent”, is a wonderful evocation of a three-line prayer found on the wall of a concentration camp and a fitting introduction to Arnesen’s music. Of the four tracks with piano,” The gift I'll leave you” and “Cradle Hymn” makes me think of Rutter, while the saxophone accompaniment in “Making or Breaking” instantly brings to mind the Hilliard Ensemble’s recording Officium (ECM 1525); there is also an effective version of the latter for choir, piano and string quartet. “The Lamb” makes one think automatically of John Tavener’s wonderful setting of Blake’s poem; Arnesen’s treatment of the text is totally different, yet equally compelling. I found the greatest enjoyment in the final two tracks, both of which were composed for Kantorei; the first of these, “Infinity”, gives this disc its eponymous title and “There We Shall Rest”, which sets a text by St Augustine of Hippo, brings the disc to a fittingly devotional conclusion. Both pieces demonstrate the composer’s effective use of melisma: the singing of more than one note on a single syllable.

Kantorei and Joel Rinsema give excellent performances of this music, especially in those works composed specifically for them. I would like to have seen included here, in addition to those sung in English or Latin, some pieces composed in Arnesen’s home language. The brief notes provide useful background information and the recorded sound is very good.

Stuart Sillitoe

Even when He is Silent [6:18]
Flight Song [4:23]
O Sacrum Convivium [5:55]
Child of Song [4:50]
The gift I'll leave you [5:47]
Dormi, Jesu [5:17]
Making or Breaking [4:35]
Cradle Hymn [6:20]
The Lamb [5:38]
Pie Jesu [4:17]
Infinity [7:42]
There We Shall Rest [5:32]

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