GAVIN BRYARS: THE FIFTH CENTURY / ECM New Series 2405
The Crossing, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Donald Nally, conductor
The music of English composer Gavin Bryars has long managed the distinction of being both “accessible and defiantly personal” (The New York Times). A deep yet unsentimental emotional resonance and a patient, contemplative view of time – whether relating to harmonic rhythm or human experience – are complementary characteristics that run through his instrumental, vocal and theatrical catalog like a red thread, the composer inspired by disparate spirits from Wagner and Satie to Cage and Silvestrov. The ECM New Series released multiple recordings of Bryars’ music in the 1980s and early ’90s, including the classic albums After the Requiem and Vita Nova. The first full ECM album from Bryars in decades is The Fifth Century, which includes the seven-part title work: a slowly evolving – yet immediately involving – setting of words by 17th-century English mystic Thomas Traherne, performed by the mixed choir of The Crossing with saxophone quartet PRISM. The album also features Two Love Songs, luminous a cappella settings of Petrarch for the women of The Crossing.