OWAIN PARK: Choral Works – Choir of Trinity College Cambridge/ Stephen Layton – Hyperion CDA68191, 76:00 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS) ****:

Young (25 years old) Owain Park is a graduate of Cambridge, where he studied with John Rutter, and later took a master’s degree. According to his website biography, he was a chorister at St Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol, before joining the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. He was assistant conductor of the RSCM Millennium Youth Choir before founding his own ensemble, The Gesualdo Six. As well as being their director, he maintains a busy schedule of conducting projects, working with ensembles including Cappella Cracoviensis, Cambridge Chorale and the BBC Singers. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO), and was awarded the Dixon Prize for improvisation, having been Senior Organ Scholar at Wells Cathedral and Trinity College Cambridge. His name is on the ascendency and listening to this disc one can hear why.

The music definitely fits into the category I like to call the “ecstatic” school, replete with tight, multi-layered harmonies and superimpositions, the likes of which Eric Whitacre has set the standard, or at least entrenched in modern compositional thought, though Park departs from this a little in his use of dissonances that bite with more severity than Whitacre and others like him. I have wondered for a long time now where this school of writing would evolve, and hearing Park’s music gives me a foretaste of what might be to come.

This program consists of liturgical and religious music of great insight and consideration. While it’s not especially revelatory or profound, it is lyrical, well-crafted, and moving. When you consider the age of the composer, it borders on the amazing. This man will be around for a long time, and his progress will be fascinating to observe. The Trinity Choristers present it with brilliance and commitment, recorded to perfection in their own chapel.

Tracklist:
The wings of the wind
Upheld by stillness
Trinity Fauxbourdons
I. Magnificat
II. Nunc Dimittis
Above the stars my Saviour dwells
Phos hilaron
Ave Maris Stella
Judas mercator pessimus
Justorum animae
Beati quorum via
Caelos ascendit hodie
For the fallen
The Lord’s Prayer
I wonder as I wander
The spirit breathes

—Steven Ritter