Review of Commotio CD, Night

Following its successful recording of choral music by South African composer Peter Klatzow in 2006, Oxford choir Commotio has now released its second CD, recorded last year at Merton College Chapel. In true Commotio style, this is a collection of new and little-known choral works, most of it written within the last decade. It opens with Richard Allain's Night, which was commissioned for Commotio and premiered by them in concert last year. Based on Shelley's poem of the same name, Allain has captured the poet's complex depiction of the night, using musical language that is by turns harsh and remote, then delicate and graceful. These effects are enhanced by the choir's sure-footed handling of the contrasting moods, and by their clarity of tone and diction.

Also written for Commotio, and again premiered last year, is Futility, by choir member and composer John Duggan. Using Wilfred Owen's poem and Jean Richafort's Requiem Mass for inspiration, Duggan has conjured up the grim, uncompromising tragedy of war, emphasised by the use of simple tonal language, striking harmonies and jarring chords, and by the stirring contribution of tenor Christopher Watson.

Other interesting inclusions are Richard Allain's Ubi Caritas, Frank Ferko's Motet for Passion Sunday and Lord, let at last Thine angels come, Rudi Tas's Miserere, Knut Nystedt's Stabat Mater and Elizabeth Maconchy's Variations on a Theme from Vaughan Williams's Job.

This is an appealing and inspirational collection of pieces, which makes an ideal showcase for Commotio's extraordinary level of dedication and musical accomplishment. Every piece is delivered with freshness, tonal purity, and an almost tangible enthusiasm, all backed up by a solid technique. Cellist Rosie Banks contributes a sensitive and thoughtful accompaniment throughout. This immaculate recording deserves a place on any music-lover's shelves.

Night is produced by Herald AV Publications (HAVPCD 340). Copies are on sale in Blackwell's Music Shop, and are also available through the choir's website, www.commotio.org, or via Amazon.

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