“Magnificat” = KIM ANDRE ARNESEN: Magnificat; AARON JAY KERNIS: Musica Celestis; OLA GJEILO: Tundra; Song of the Universal – Nidaros Cathedral Girls Choir/ Trondheim Soloists/ Anita Brevik – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray + SACD

“Magnificat” = KIM ANDRE ARNESEN: Magnificat; AARON JAY KERNIS: Musica Celestis; OLA GJEILO: Tundra; Song of the Universal – Nidaros Cathedral Girls Choir/ Trondheim Soloists/ Anita Brevik – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray DTS-HD MA (192/24) 5.1 + SACD MCH 5.1 DSD 2L-106 (2 discs) [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

Leave it to 2L and the Trondheim Soloists to come up with the perfect Lenten offering, a tribute to the Virgin Mary in the guise of her Magnificat, with enough sonic splendor and reinforced aural stimulation to make even the most confirmed ascetic forget it is Lent! 35-year-old Arnensen went to school at the Trondheim Conservatory, and, no surprise, his concentration is on choral music. No regrets there—his is one active and spectacularly agile muse. The work is called, in the composer’s own words, a “prayer for the sick, the poor, a song for help and hope for those who are struggling.” I am sure it is all that and more, but for me it is simply beautiful, a masterly essay on the virtues of a girls choir, its ethereal sounds leaping from the speakers and caressing the ears and the soul.

Kernis is not 35, and not unknown either. Despite his unbelief in angels, the music itself certainly espouses some characteristics of that angelic hierarchy, a twelve-minute beauteous theme and variations that seems anxious to disguise its form. If you know the composer’s String Quartet No. 1 you might recognize this, at it comes from the slow movement of that piece.

Ola Gjeilo (“Yay-lo”) is from Norway but began his training at the Juilliard School, and he currently resides in New York City. Tundra is a photos-turned-into-poetry piece with the subject being a ski resort town near the Hardangervidda mountain plateau. The short text by Charles Anthony Silvestri captures the composer’s recalled memories very well, and the music enshrines it even more deeply in the senses. Song of the Universal by Walt Whitman offers excerpts which set off Gjeilo’s talents and superb melodic gift quite well.

As indicated, the music is first rate and the sound exceptionally resonant and deep, actually as good as you are going to hear on a Blu-ray or SACD disc. Do something for your spirit and get this.

—Steven Ritter

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