To complete our choral selection this week, here's a dazzling collection of unashamedly tonal new music from James Whitbourn, the extravagantly talented composer, conductor, clinician, writer and – for the past 20 years – producer of the BBC's Carols from King's. Luminosity, his seven-movement celebration of the power of creative love, glows with hypnotic brilliance, fusing powerful vocal writing with seductive eastern influences, while his Evening Canticles for King's and his setting of a prayer by Desmond Tutu (which includes the Archbishop's unmistakeable voice) illustrate the boundless breadth of Whitbourn's choral imagination.
Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 3/14/2010
This interesting CD features some unusual liturgical settings, including a Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, together with the substantial [Luminosity] based on a selection of mystical texts. Musically a crossover between East and West, the work embodies a New Age aesthetic, with bands of static choral harmony, melodic incantations in sitar style played on the viola, and ecstatic climaxes for full organ with tamtam. …the immediately effective music certainly gets right away from outworn Howells-derived conventions. Commotio provide excellent, fully committed performances. [FOUR STARS]
Andrew Thomson, Choir and Organ, 5/1/2010
This album is extraordinary. It expands the experience of classical music beyond the edges of the traditional map of classical styles. The word "luminosity" describes the nature of celestial light, and the music of composer James Whitbourn is a celebration of that light -- peaceful, radiant and clear.
Tom Manoff, wbur.org, 4/22/2010
Luminosity is that rare artefact, a choral ballet, a seven-movement composition lasting 30 minutes, and what's recorded here is effectively the soundtrack to a fuller realisation involving dancers, light (ultraviolet at the American premiere) and other visual content. The music itself proves striking enough in this glowingly committed performance by the Oxford chamber choir Commotio. Whitbourn's musical language is plain-speaking and non-virtuosic, which is not to say uninteresting. The opening 'Lux in tenebris' section is effectively one long vocal crescendo on simple harmonies: drama and involvement are injected by the deft terracing of the climactic sequence, and the imaginative deployment of accompanying instruments, including tanpura, gong and viola.
The balance of the disc is filled by shorter pieces, the most significant being the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis written in 2005 for King's College, Cambridge. This highly dramatic setting, most unusually, boasts not only a solo tenor in a cantor-like role, but also a bilingual text (English and Latin), and a tam-tam. The performance is again superbly sympathetic.
Performance: 5 stars
Recording: 4 stars
Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine, 5/1/2010