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Scattered Rhymes
Ensemble Detail(s)
Orlando Consort, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Label name
Harmonia Mundi USA
Recording year
Conductor details
Paul Hillier

Work Title


The rippling vocal invention and vibrant rhythmic pulses of Guillaume de Machaut's thrilling 14th century Notre Dame Mass radiate across the centuries to Tarik O'Regan's "Scattered Rhymes" (2006) in this appealing disc devoted to musical and poetic affinities. O'Regan employs some of his predecessor's phrases and arresting harmonies in a dramatic 2006 setting of a text by Petrarch, Machaut's contemporary, about the poet's anguished love for a young woman.
Steven Winn, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/27/2008

This fascinating disc spans the centuries by coupling medieval masterworks with modern works inspired by them. The four male voices of the Orlando Consort bring vigour and tonal variety to Machaut's Messe de Notre Dame, and its tenor Mark Dobell gives a lilting account of the composer's song Douce dame jolie. Tarik O'Regan's Virelai on the same tune then makes playful, contrapuntal use of its melodies. His Scattered Rhymes, inspired by the Mass, pairs the Consort in medieval English poetry with Paul Hillier's choir in texts by Petrarch: a vivid meditation on earthly and divine love.
Matthew Rye, The Telegraph (London), 5/10/2008

...Scattered Rhymes is an important new work (it reminded me of Joby Talbot's superb 2006 Path of Miracles, which cannot be bad) and 30 year old Tarik O'Regan is mixing it in all the right places with posts at Cambridge (England), Columbia (New York) and Harvard. And most importantly mixing it is a great way to reach new audiences.
,, 5/15/2008

Tarik O'Regan... delights in setting intricately interwoven rhythms against slower lines. The four voices of the Orlando Consort work three against one in the giddy 'Virelai: Douce dame jolie'. They are set against the weight of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under Paul Hillier in the shimmering tapestry of 'Scattered Rhymes', which is intended as a companion piece to the ever-bracing scrunches of Machaut's 'Messe de Nostre Dame'.
Michael Dervan, The Irish Times, 5/16/2008

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. performance ***** sound *****
Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine, 6/1/2008

O'Regan has a genuinely original voice; his music is based on an almost incomprehensibly complex layering of polyrhythms, creating a relentlessly driving momentum, but it's also immediately engaging and friendly, inviting the listener to let go and allow him or herself be immersed in the visceral, sensual experience. Born in 1978, O'Regan is definitely a young composer to watch out for. The performances throughout are absolutely stellar, astonishing in their rhythmic precision, unwavering intonation and interpretive bravura. The sound of Harmonia Mundi's SACD is comparably fine, with excellent clarity and balance.
Steven Eddins,, 5/26/2008

...One example is Tarik O'Regan's 'Scattered Rhymes' in which medieval and contemporary elements are combined to form a splendid, timeless whole. O'Regan chose as his text a number of sonnets from Petrarch's greatest work, the 'Canzionere', interspersed with verses from an old English collection of anonymous love poems. The combination of the Orlando Consort with Petrarch's text and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, which interprets the anonymous verses, is astonishing.... [translation: Caroline Doggart]
Andrew van Parijs, SR Klassieke Zaken, 6/1/2008

This is one of the most fascinating CDs of recent times. British composer Tarik O'Regan (b. 1978) based his composition 'Scattered Rhymes' on two fourteenth century texts, one in English (author unknown) and the other excerpted from the 'Canzoniere' by Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) . Both texts have earthy and sensual themes as well as divine love, with the emphasis on conflicts between the two. Although 'Scattered Rhymes' (named after Petrarca's 'rime sparse') has strongly pronounced cotemporary polyrhythmic elements with complex layers of melody and harmony building up to tensions between consonance and dissonance suggesting a special kind of modernistic ambiguity, the work is clearly inspired by the magnificent 'Messe de Nostre Dame' by Guillaume de Machaut (ca 1400-1474). Six hundred years ago, Machaut created what, for that time, was an incredibly complicated work; one that is considered today to be an extraordinarily fascinating piece of music. We recognise the same kind of rhythmic complexity, with apparently loose, empty fifths being built up into steadily more complicated, often scouring, harmonies and almost grotesque contrasts between soberly formed passages and other moments when the spiritual appears to have overwhelmed the material side.... No wonder, then, that O'Regan should have allowed himself to be inspired by Machaut, with the 'Messe' serving him well as a model, whilst maintaining a strictly contemporary modern idiom.... This recording is a true gem, both in surround-sound and normal stereo. This is a CD that you really cannot ignore, with so many pleasurable, enriching hours in the prospect. [translation: caroline Doggart]
Aart van der Wal,, 5/15/2008

Nobody who has heard Guillaume de Machaut's enigmatic 'Messe de Nostre Dame', written around the middle of the fourteenth century, can deny the sheer strangeness of its musical language, which, as Smith points out, has lost none of its power to shock. So why bother to write a modern companion piece? Thirty-year-old composer Tarik O'Regan tells us why by doing just that. O'Regan's 'Scattered Rhymes', written in 2006, was commissioned by the Spitalfields Festival and is meant to be performed together with the 'Messe'. Not only is much of the material for its musical building blocks quarried from the earlier work, but the texts are from Machaut's time: three sonnets from Petrarch's 'Canzoniere' (sung by a quartet of soloists) and three stanzas from an anonymous English source (sung by a choir). From the constricted 'scrunches', spacious intervals and pulsating repeated notes and fragments of Part I through the chorus's expansive commenting on the quartet's severe double canon in Part II to the energetic syncopations and hypnotic repetitions of the 'slow motion' Part III, O'Regan's work breathes. Not only that, but the dual nature of the texts, which equivocates between earthly and divine love - perhaps even eros and agape - makes for a multi-layered gloss on Machaut's unequivocally spiritual yet curiously modern text. The effect engenders both clarity and mystery. 'Scattered Rhymes' is performed first on the disc, followed by the Messe; this order is reversed for the final two works, Machaut's 'Douce dame jolie' and O'Regan's 'Virelai: Douce dame jolie', the latter seeing O'Regan fitting out Machaut's single-voice original with richly textured, though never gaudy, garments.
Robert Levett, International Record Review, 6/1/2008

Guillaume de Machaut's 'Messe de Nostre Dame' is notable in that it was not only the first complete setting of a mass, but also the first with an identifiable composer. Composed in the mid-fourteenth century, it employed a radical approach to music that is brilliant in its diversity, with an abundance of dazzling vocal pyrotechnics, even by modern standards. Composer Tarik O'Regan has a fascination for Machaut's masterwork; his own 'Scattered Rhymes' borrows stylistically from Machaut, and was composed with the intention of both pieces being performed on the same program. Both composers integrate themes of longing and desire through a complex weaving of sacred and secular texts. 'Scattered Rhymes' combines several texts that date from Machaut's time, with the various texts being sung simultaneously by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Orlando Consort. A barrage of vocal information is being thrown at the listener, but careful contemplation reveals that all counterpoint is clearly discernable. The complexity of these pieces is definitely daunting, but a measure patience will reward the listener willing to experience these masterworks of choral music, whose closeness in spirit belies the 650 years that separate them. The surround sound recording from Harmonia mundi is nothing short of spectacular, and the listener can easily pinpoint the locations of the various vocalists in the excellent representation of the acoustic of the Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh, Scotland. A challenging listen indeed, but very highly recommended! (Five Stars)
Tom Gibbs, Audiophile Auditon, 6/5/2008

The medieval modernism of Machaut intermingles with the commanding new voice of Tarik O'Regan in 'Scattered Rhymes', where O'Regan combines the texts of three Petrarch sonnets with an anonymous 14th-century manuscript on sensual and divine love. Using fragments from Machaut's 'Messe de Nostre Dame', he weaves the music of consort and chorus in and out of each other to produce complex and colourful textures. The 'Messe', with its flowing, decorated contrapuntal lines, creates a rich tapestry of sound, which is given a riveting performance by the Orlando Consort. Slipped into this fascinating programme are two imaginative pieces by Dufay and Gavin Bryars. The CD ends with O'Regan's take on Machaut's 'Douce Dame Jolie'. Stunning, perceptive singing makes this a 'must have' disc.
Shirley Ratcliffe, Choir & Organ, 7/1/2008

Probing the line between very old and very new music, the Orlando Consort's latest CD sometimes makes it difficult to tell which is which. The body of this recording is a juxtaposition of a 14th-century Mass by Guillaume de Machaut with a musical deconstruction of the same work from 2006 by the 30-year-old British composer Tarik O'Regan, who sets to music 14th-century love poems by Petrarch and an anonymous English source (writing in Latin). The O'Regan piece -- in which the four-member Consort sings the Petrarch and the Estonian Chamber Choir, the English poems -- sounds exquisite and delicate. The Machaut, by contrast, sounds as if its at the limits of what music is able to contain, as if the unaccompanied voices were wandering the cold landscapes of distant planets. With its weird, gritty timbres, its uncomfortable harmonies, its unfurling strands of music leading ever farther down unexplored paths, it sounds ageless. It could have been written yesterday.
Anne Midgette, Washington Post, 6/26/2008

Opening and closing the program are compositions by Tarik O'Regan, a young British choral composer whose music offers "considerable beauty, craftsmanship, and spiritual power" (Koob, July/Aug 2006). Both of these works are related to a greater or lesser degree to compositions by Guillaume de Machaut. O'Regan's website terms 'Scattered Rhymes' a "vocal concerto" and it is truly virtuosic in its combination of three Italian poems by Petrarch (sung by the Orlando Consort) and choral settings of an anonymous medieval Latin poem from England with some of the musical material based on fragments derived from Machaut's Mass. ...The other work by O'Regan on this recording, 'Virelai: Douce dame jolie', was commissioned by the Orlando Consort. This composition is directly based on Machaut's own monophonic virelai, which is sung as a solo by Mark Dobell (in the style of Gothic Voices, Hyperion 66087, 1987) before O'Regan's extensive reworking of Machaut's tune through the use of intricate canons and other polyphonic devices.
Charles E Brewer, American Record Review, 7/1/2008

In Scattered Rhymes, O'Regan pairs each of three Petrarch sonnets with a stanza from an anonymous fourteenth-century English poem, and the texts complement each other well — they almost seem to refer to each other. Compositionally, the Petrarch verses are assigned to a vocal quartet (the Orlando Consort), the anonymous ones to full chorus, in this case the twenty-seven-member Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, under the accomplished Paul Hillier; when they intertwine, it creates the effect of a concerto grosso for voices. O'Regan is skillful and imaginative. His piece is clearly the work of a contemporary composer, but the homage he pays to his medieval forbear creates a wonderful, centuries-spanning resonance between the two pieces. O'Regan intended them to be programmed together, as they are here, and it's an effective coupling.
Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News Online, 7/1/2008

Tarik O'Regan's Scattered Rhymes. O'Regan completed his harmonically complex yet tonally accessible 16-minute work for unaccompanied male vocal quartet and choir in 2006, when he was 28. He composed Scattered Rhymes after receiving inspiration from Guillaume de Machaut's astonishingly modern-sounding Messe de Nostre Dame, which is also included on the CD. ...This disc will likely be in the running for multiple awards later in the year. It's that good.
Jason Victor Serinus, Bay Area Reporter, 7/7/2008

Tarik O'Regan is Britain's hottest young choral composer. The title piece is a three-movement work that combines the forces of the four-man Orlando Consort and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under early-music maven Paul Hillier. It's not your grandfather's choral music, though it may call to mind your great-great-great-great-plus grandfather's. It owes something to the "spiritual," Eastern European branch of minimalism like Part and Gorecki, with lots of delicately repetitive textures and ear-pleasing sounds.
Lawson Taite, Dallas Morning News, 7/26/2008

...The title piece in "Scattered Rhymes" is often jaw-dropping in its collision of the smallish Orlando Consort and the more traditional choral Estonians....
David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/27/2008

The performances of all these works are beyond criticism.
J F Weber, Fanfare Magazine, 12/1/2008

THE technique that pop musicians call sampling — taking bits of one recording and using them as elements in another — is very old news in classical music. In the 16th century, composers created parody Masses built around quotations from popular (and usually secular) songs instead of using plainchant, as earlier composers had done. The British composer Tarik O’Regan stands that practice on its head in “Scattered Rhymes.” Instead of writing a Mass using modern musical themes, Mr. O’Regan takes thematic fragments from a famous Mass as the basis of an elaborate setting of Petrarch sonnets and an anonymous 14th-century love song. Mr. O’Regan borrows his themes from the oldest existing polyphonic Mass by a single composer: Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame, composed in the 1360s. Mr. O’Regan’s often dense rhythms and counterpoint make it hard to spot the source material within the work’s invitingly variegated textures. But he means you to hear it; he suggests performing “Scattered Rhymes” alongside the Machaut, as the Orlando Consort and (in the O’Regan only) the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir do here. The Orlando singers make the juxtaposition less odd by singing the Machaut with a velvety modern tone, a very different sound from what you can hear on the Ensemble Organum’s conjectural 1995 recording on Harmonia Mundi, which presents the work in more rough-hewn timbres. As a performance of the Mass, it sounds pleasant but newfangled; as a companion piece for the O’Regan, it works beautifully.
Allan Kozinin, New York Times, 1/16/2009

Commentators and critics have long noted connections between various strains of art music in the twentieth century and the music of the medieval and early Renaissance periods…. The present disc makes such connections explicit by placing a three-movement a cappella work by the young composer Tarik O’Regan (1978–) next to Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame, the earliest known complete Mass setting and an iconic work of the Ars Nova period. O’Regan’s Scattered Rhymes takes its lyrics from two fourteenth-century poems of Petrarch, both dealing with the poet’s unrequited love for a young woman but from very different perspectives: one more romantic and sensual, the other endowing the object of his obsession with seemingly celestial qualities. In this piece O’Regan takes small musical ideas directly from Machaut’s Mass and incorporates them into his own work in a variety of ways, some more obvious than others, using the four-voice Orlando Consort and the larger Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir alternately. The result is both brightly energetic and passionately intense, and it illustrates perhaps more brilliantly than any other musical work the connections between the Ars Nova movement and the post-tonal twentieth century; it also complements beautifully the dark, vinegary sound of the Machaut Mass setting, which follows it directly on the program.
Rick Anderson, Project Muse, 12/1/2009

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