TALBOT: Path of Miracles – Conspirare/ Craig Hella Johnson – Harmonia mundi multichannel SACD HMU 807603, 65:23 *****:

For background to this work I direct you to previous review, that of the ensemble and conductor that inspired and commissioned it. My comments in regard to the work itself have not changed; it shows great promise and seems to have attracted a decent following since 2006. Why do I say this? Well, I assume that most composers these days would be thrilled to have not one but two recordings of the same piece by sterling ensembles in sensational surround sound only about ten years apart. And that is exactly what has happened here. Choosing between the two is tough, but as I imagine most people will want or need only one recording of this work, a choice has to be made.

So here it is—even though the originators of the piece can claim some sort of authority and honor for having suggested and recorded it, the work has now been on the public highway for ten years, and the ravishing sounds emanating from the mouths of the ever-consistent and enthrallingly virtuoso—and enthusiastic—band of choral wizards called Conspirare bring a freshness of interpretation and absolutely engrossing sense of urgency to a piece that they obviously believe in, otherwise why attempt to rerecord something already on the charts also in splendid sound?

That one left me breathless, but you have to admit there is a certain degree of conceit in putting this out, that must have been born from the idea that the last word had certainly not been uttered as regards Talbot’s opus. And I agree—this one is less ethereal and more grounded in a grass roots sort of tempestuous spirituality that perhaps fits my non-British sensibilities a little better—but when I hear it I find myself more convinced of the piece than I was with the first recording, which was in no way deficient.

But I will say this—the SACD is better here than on the first disc. I have no idea why, but there it is. You will really like this disc—give it a try for some astonishing choral work from a fine composer.

—Steven Ritter