Craig Hella Johnson, Victoria Bach Festival & Conspirare – Robert Kyr: The Cloud of Unknowing – Songs of the Soul (2014) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/88,2kHz]

Craig Hella Johnson, Victoria Bach Festival & Conspirare – Kyr: The Cloud of Unknowing – Songs of the Soul (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88,2 kHz  | Time – 01:16:37 minutes | 1,24 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Booklet, Front Cover | © harmonia mundi

Craig Hella Johnson leads Conspirare, soprano Estelí Gomez, baritone David Farwig, and the Victoria Bach Festival string orchestra in this first recording of three choral works by Robert Kyr (b. 1952). Exploring the relationship between human and divine love, his cantatas ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ (2013) and ‘Songs of the Soul’ (2011) transfixed audiences and critics alike when Conspirare premiered them.

The texts are by the 16th century Spanish mystics St Teresa of Ávila and St John of the Cross, some sung in Spanish, some in English translation. The prelude to the two cantatas, the a cappella anthem, ‘The Singer’s Ode’ is reminiscent of RVW’s ‘Ode to Music’.

Robert Kyr is among the most prolific composers of his generation, having composed 12 symphonies, 3 chamber symphonies, 3 violin concerti, and much chamber music, in addition to numerous vocal works. His choral music is distinguished by a warmly compelling lyricism, as well as by a contrapuntal mastery that arises from his love of early music, especially the work of Dufay, Josquin Des Prez, and above all, Bach…

It is no surprise to a living soul anymore that some of the most beautiful music to be written and performed in the classical tradition in our century is religious choral music.

This is almost shockingly exquisite music – based on the poetry of 16th century Spanish mystic writers (St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross) as well as a 14th century monk and magnificently performed by one of the great current choral aggregates with soloists soprano Esteli Gomez and David Farwig.

The music is almost vengefully tonal, as if anything else would be inhuman violation. It is also deeply moving. Kyr is a 62-year old composer who says that these are two cantatas, a two-part cycle that is “my deepest personal response to the horrific violence of our age, which has only continued to intensify with the massacre of innocents (and innocence) in Newtown, Connecticut, followed by the incomprehensible horror in Boston. Although we live in the 21st century, we are still compelled to plead ‘why?’ with the anguished cry of the psalmist.

“My response to unspeakable violence is to direct my attention toward creation rather than destruction, toward unity rather than separation, and toward love rather than anything less inclusive. I believe that music has the unique power to directly connect us to the core of who we truly are. It reveals aspects of the inner life force that binds us together into one humanity.” Out of so much noble rhetorical idealism, thousands of composer’s statements have been written over the centuries, few of them accompanying music as beautiful as this. This isn’t just musical consonance, it takes no special discernment to hear intellectual and spiritual consonance too. Beautiful music magnificently done.“ (Jeff Simon)

Robert Kyr (1952)
1 The Singer’s Ode 02:59
2 I. Unknowing 02:27
3 II. Fearing 02:06
4 III. Forgetting 02:36
5 IV. Longing 07:25
6 I. Waiting 01:28
7 II. Thinking 01:52
8 III. Beseeching 02:31
9 IV. Piercing 01:15
10 V. Surrendering 02:43
11 VI. Enduring 02:32
12 I. Descending: From The Abyss 10:37
13 II. Venturing: On A Dark Night 04:26
14 III. Hoping: Toward Dawn 08:45
15 IV. Transforming: Beloved Into Lover 04:27
16 V. Arising: A Time For Song 05:41
17 VI. Uniting: Leaving My Cares 06:29
18 VII. Transcending: And Love Remains 06:18

Estelí Gomez, soprano
David Farwig, baritone
Victoria Bach Festival String Orchestra
Craig Hella Johnson, conductor