Chorals works by O’Regan, Machaut, Bryers and Dufay

The Orlando Consort; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/Paul Hillier
Harmonia Mundi HMU 807469   61:38 mins

Even if it wasn’t now possible to kit yourself out with a genuine SACD player and some surprisingly effective multichannel headphones for around £150, it would be worth investing in the format just to collect the Harmonia Mundi SACDs produced by Robina Young, one of the format’s most committed advocates. This is a typically unfaultable example, even if the stirring together of early and contemporary compositions within the accommodating aesthetic of choral music is now routine.

That said, this collection has actually been programmed with considerable care. Machaut’s glorious Messe de Nostre Dame forms its centre, both in terms of its musical substance and its famously provocative rhythmic and harmonic structure. Immediately preceding this is one of two pieces by the highly prodigious Tarik O’Regan, Scattered Rhymes, partly derived from elements of the piece which follows it. O’Regan explains this in an alarmingly composerly fashion in the excellent booklet notes, but the results are sprightly and arresting. The Bryars, Super flumina, is also derived from deliberately fragmented material, both textual and musical, providing an interesting allegory of the narrative it depicts. The remainder of the programme is equally compelling, with the acoustic of the recording venue (Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh) effectively becoming an additional element in the performance.