Rather like the film of the book, this ‘concert of the album’ featured material from Ex Cathedra’s recently released 2-CD tribute to Alec Roth. For a contemporary composer to receive such acclaim must be extremely rewarding.
Jeffrey Skidmore and his choir are obviously fans, as their finely polished, committed performances (including super tenor soloist Samuel Boden) demonstrated.
Two works, Shared Ground and Earthrise, were premièred by Ex Cathedra not long ago, and on Sunday we heard the world première of a third major piece, Hymn to Gaia.
Roth’s style – a lingua franca mixture of Tavener, Whitacre, Lauridsen and others – is very accessible and immediately appealing. He defines and to an extent empowers Shared Ground with five pieces for solo violin (Ponticelli, played with expressive bravura by Philippe Honoré) to connect the six movements.
On the other hand Earthrise, a remarkably accomplished 40-part motet written for Ex Cathedra’s 40th, offers a more fundamental sense of wonder at Man’s relationship to the Earth and cosmos, utilising luminous close-harmony textures to suggest an elevated sense of light and space.
In Hymn to Gaia Roth has gone the other way, employing chant-like melodies and textural simplicity to reflect the ancient Greek text. After so much, occasionally over-extended, choral complexity its elemental directness was refreshingly welcome – and the children’s choir (Junior Academy) and young percussionist Simone Rebello were excellent.
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