We’re embarrassed to be reviewing this important choral SACD after it has won this year’s Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance; somehow it got sidetracked in the barrage of SACDs we receive for review here at Audiophile Audition. Paul Hillier is a veteran of Pärt performances and recordings and has previously won allocades for his illuminations of examples of Pärt’s so-called “holy minimalistic” style. Pärt is one of several living composers with whom Hillier has worked and given premiere performances; another is Steve Reich.
Da pacem Domine is a prayer for peace, and like the other works here shows examples of the composer’s bell-like choral sounds which he calls tintinnabulation. As with the other sacred pieces, its spare pitches are very carefully chosen, “…placed in position like stones in a Zen garden,” according to Hillier. Even in the shorter works the music moves at the speed of walking meditation; time is dealt with differently or completely forgotten, similar to Mahler symphonies. The choral sounds with the chamber choir are richer and more varied than with the smaller Hillier Ensemble, and the surround SACD produces a beautiful cathedral acoustic which supports the music perfectly. (Probably those who voted the Grammy for the disc only heard it in the two-channel CD version, so collectors will have a leg up on them audio-wise, experiencing the gorgeous works in hi-res surround.)
— John Sunier