“A Bridge of Dreams” = LOU HARRISON: Mass for St. Cecilia’s Day; ROSS EDWARDS: Sacred Kingfisher Psalms; JACK BODY: 5 Lullabies; LIU SOLA & KEVIN CROSSLEY-HOLLAND: The Seafarer; ANNE BOYD: As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams – Andrew Lawrence-King, psaltery and harp/ Ars Nova Copenhagen/ Paul Hillier – DaCapo multichannel SACD 6.220597, 67:49 [Distr. by Naxos] ****1/2:
Paul Hillier’s forces continue to turn out interesting and very exciting recitals of new and unusual music, no matter what ensemble he happens to be working with. Here his Copenhagen group tackles a multitude of international composers who each have something to say in a collection of extremely varied and engaging music.
The title track is based on a piece that Paul Hillier encountered years ago (1975) that uses a translated Japanese book by a medieval woman who chronicled her travels. That book, Sarashina Nikki, forms the basis of this work now employing a Japanese poem titled As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, shrouded between two unknown eternities and steeped in dreams and visions. The music is western with considerable nuanced use of orientalism in this textless piece.
The Harrison work is rather the stunner in this recording; unlike most of his accessible but unpredictable works, this one falls easy on the ears and almost unpredictably conformist in the way it all-too-well fits the traditional form of the Latin mass. While plainchant-style in tone, it still challenges the ear with its harp, psaltery, and hurdy-gurdy accompaniment that relies heavily on almost Byzantine-like isson drones. It is surprisingly beautiful and quite captivating.
Perhaps the most engrossing piece on this disc is the Sacred Kingfisher Psalms, using Psalms 1 and 130 along with the recitation of names of twelve birds native to his Australia folded into music of aboriginal descent and modal usage that has as its constant a repetitive, minimalistic-like rhythmic impulse. The energy and excitement continue to build with this brilliant strategy in a work of propulsion and great verve.
New Zealander Jack Body gives us a softer more pliable work of Five Lullabies, a meditative and determined piece that offers much for reflection, drawing on sources as diverse as the Philippines, Africa, Turkic, Latin, and Japanese, though the influence is subtle enough to make the transitions amenable and logical. Chinese composer Liu Sola wrote a piece called The Afterlife of Li Jiantong, which has been extracted by harpist Andrew Lawrence-King, and then cross-pollinated by a recitation of the poem the Seafarer, an Anglo-Saxon work found in modern translation by Kevin Crossley-Holland, spoken by Hillier over the performance of the music. This kind of thing rarely succeeds in my opinion, and though it didn’t send me lurching for the “mute” button it hardly sticks in my memory either. The music alone would have served just fine, a rather small blight on an otherwise spectacularly performed and recorded disc well worth your time.
Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered live vinyl of a great tenor saxophonist.