MATTHEW WHITTALL (b.1975): Northlands for Horn and Strings, ad puram annihilationem meam for Soloists, Choir and Percussion, The return of light for Choir and Orchestra.

Catalogue Number: 05T084

Label: Alba

Reference: ABCD 416

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: Born in Canada and a longtime resident of Finland, Whittall has a deep-seated fascination with the mystical, impersonal yet breathtakingly beautiful landscapes of the north. Much of his music explores these preoccupations, using an unusual and personal blend of idioms to express the natural world and the responses it evokes. Northlands, effectively a horn concerto, and The Return of Light, follow a similar overall plan, despite their many differences. Both begin with the evocation of the still, harsh landscape of ice in orchestral sound effects of chilly dissonance, but gradually admit the emergence of thrillingly glowing, tonal light. Northlands is divided into two sections; the first consists of glacial, abstract cluster textures from the strings, with the horn intoning long, rather Sibelian melodies, occasionally prompting tonal shafts of light to shine through the icy gloom. In part two the landscape is flooded with warm light as the music transforms into a modal hymn to nature, finally settling onto an Icelandic hymn and a glorious, pulsating finale. The Return of Light vividly depicts the short-lived first emergence of the sun after the long arctic winter. The work opens with noise sonorities - you can hear the creaking and cracking of the ice, the unearthly moaning of the wind, or of imagined wraiths of the gelid landscape. The first rays of the returning sun glow in gorgeous chords from the orchestra and wordless chorus, and for a few minutes the flaming disc sets the ice-towers aflame in mounting waves of breathtaking refulgence before receding below the horizon, leaving a transformed, glowing twilight. The choral work 'To the Pure Annihilation of Myself' sets a text of Teilhard de Chardin, combining elements of chant with a sense of Eastern ritual to suggest the transcendence of the self and absorption into the Divine. Tommi Hyytinen (horn), Helsinki Chamber Choir, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta; Nils Schweckendiek.

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