Skylark” Crossing Over = Choral works by DANIEL ELDER, JOHN TAVENER, NICOLAI KEDROV, JON LEIFS, ROBERT VUICHARD, WILLIAM SCHUMAN and ANNA THORVALDSDOTTIR –  Sono Luminus DSL 92200 audi-only Blu-ray disc with 5.1 DTS-HD MA, 2.0 PCM, 9.1 Auro-3D, a separate standard CD and downloadable FLAC and MP3 files. TT: 52:53 (3/25/16) ****:

A capella choral music performed and recorded beautifully.

What a beautiful recording and program from Sono Luminus, with a unique idea to tie the music together. Crossing Over is comprised of compositions that depict the dream state at the end of life. Featuring unique voices in choral composition from around the world, and including several world premiere recordings, Crossing Over to my ear was neither depressing or overly solemn, but beautiful music that lifts the spirits and creates a calm environment perfect for meditation or reflection.

I don’t want to get too new-agey here. This is lovely music, and there are enough world premier performances here to get most music lovers interested. The a cappella vocal ensemble Skylark commemorates British composer Sir John Tavener with the first US commercial recording of Butterfly Dreams, an 8-movement piece composed in 2003. It’s a compelling piece of music, and each movement is varied and speaks in a different way.

American composers are here as well,  with a rare recording of William Schuman’s Carols of Death, based on the poetry of Walt Whitman. The album also features two young American compositional voices, with the debut recording of Robert Vuichard’s Heliocentric Meditation based on the poetry of John Donne, and a recording of Elegy by Daniel Elder, based on the tune “Taps,” played at United States military funerals.

There is also seldom-heard music from the Icelandic choral tradition, including the first US recording of Requiem by Jón Leifs and an ancient psalm setting by contemporary Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Thorvaldsdottir, recently named as the New York Philharmonic Kravis Emerging Composer, traveled from Iceland to work with Skylark during the sessions.

As is usual from Sono Luminus, the recording is gorgeous. I listened to the 5.1 mix and it is haunting and involving. The chorus has a distinctly dimensional image across the from speakers, and the surrounds are active as well. There are several listening options, besides the 5.1 DTS MA,  including two- channel PCM, and 9.1 Auro 3D, which has some popularity in Europe. If you have a Blu-ray player on your computer, you can also access FLAC and MP3 files for whatever home or portable gear you want to listen on.

This is a significant classical release. Combining some world premier performances, a natural and beautifully ethereal recording, and a well thought-out program, this disc is highly recommended.


DANIEL ELDER (b. 1986)
1. Elegy 4:16

JOHN TAVENER (1944-2013)
Butterfly Dreams
2. 1. Butterfly Dreams based on Chuang Tse 1:42
3. 2. Haiku by Kokku 0:54
4. 3. Haiku by Buson 0:54
5. 4. Haiku by Issa 1:10
6. 5. Haiku anon. 0:41
7. 6. The Butterfly by Pavel Friedmann 2:40
8. 7. Butterfly Song from Acoman Indian 2:20
9. 8. Butterfly Dreams based on Chuang Tse 1:52

NICOLAI KEDROV (1871-1940)
10. Otche Nash 2:03

JÓN LEIFS (1899-1968)
11. Requiem 4:41

12. Heliocentric Meditation 9:12

Carols of Death
13. 1. The Last Invocation 3:29
14. 2. The Unknown Region 3:53
15. 3. To All, to Each 2:20

16. Heyr þú oss himnum á 4:27

17. Funeral Ikos 5:55

—Mel Martin