Christmas has enriched me by one further Libera album, much longed for. It was the one with four songs I had all the time denied myself to listen to so that I could delay the moment to have heard all songs as long as ever possible. At some point in the meantime, I "fell over" and listened to Stabat, as I thought, three unknown songs is also alright. Like someone who wants to lose 5 pounds and, seeing that it's just too hard, sets 2 as the new aim ... But recently, it became torturing. I finally wanted to know Attendite, Silencium and Luminosa. And Sanctus II, but here I had an idea, while the others were unknown to me in every regard. So I bothered everyone from whom a Christmas gift could be expected that this album was the lonely top of my wish list and this wish utterly essential to be fulfilled. And it was. Christmas's highlight!
Listening for the first time, a few characteristics of the whole album were immediately clear: This is the most ethereal album of all Libera CDs. It is very withdrawn in tone which supports the mystic atmosphere. Well suitable to all this are the fine, crystal clear voices of the two main soloists Ben Crawley and Steven Geraghty. They reach extremely high notes, and particularly Ben's voice is so delicate. When I hear him, I always have the word "filigree" in mind. It almost seems as if the songs and the pitches were tailor-made for these two soloists. Using the very high register is also a feature of this album as well as the overall transparency in the music.
I love this song! I find it very beautiful; it is mysterious and, at the same time, somehow conveys a spirit of spring to me. I find something very personal in it. Gregorian intro, then the keyboard begins. Its harmonies together with the vocalise immediately evoke, each and every time, a nebulous childhood memory. Still, I'm not able to grasp what memory it is and why it arises by exactly these sounds. It feels strange, but comfortable, calming. It would be very interesting for me to hear other fans' more objective opinion about this song, because I'd certainly also like it just for its music, but that diffuse memory issue contributes a lot to my enjoyment of the song.
Ave Maria (Vavilov or Caccini)
An "Ave Maria" in aria style. What did I recently say about this song? That, since I know Tom Cully's interpretation, I can't listen to any other anymore? Ok - I can very well listen to Steven's performance, too. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Steven whatever song it is. His voice has such a pure tone. In this Ave Maria there are some high register turns in the melody which he at times manages more flawless than Tom. But nevertheless - Tom stays the number 1 for me with this song, because he expresses so incredibly much with his voice! His interpretation, both gentle and strong, is unchallenged. And I like Tom's singing technique. (By the way, the melodies differ here and there, and as I find both beautiful, this causes a welcome change.)
I listen to Steven's version with full enjoyment, I just love his voice - and I listen to Tom's version, in addition to the enjoyment, in awe, mesmerised.
Well ... this is based upon the "Aquarium" theme by Saint-Saëns, and the original is very beautiful and perfectly catches the atmosphere of the underwater world. So there is my well-known difficulty with making a song out of such instrumental music. Lacrymosa just doesn't do much to me. Yet, if asked, I prefer Ben Crawley to Ben Philipp here. The softness of Ben Crawley's voice adds to the mysterious mood of the song which, as I do admit, it still has in this sung version as well.
That's a song I've never cared much for, see above. But in comparison to the live performances I've seen of it, this recording feels lighter to me, maybe because of the very distinct percussion. Its rhythmics changes the solemnity of the Beethoven original into a more dance-like mood, and I like it. Although I may be wrong: Is the percussion really better audible in the recording than live? I must check that next time I hear it in a concert. Perhaps, I'll have to revise this part of the review then. Now, I can only say that this album enhances my enjoyment of the song.
Wow! This beautiful, very charming song was a revelation! It contains so much! So much is typically Libera: the Latin/English mix, the vocalises, the way of arranging the voices, the harmonies - in fact, it's indulging in its walk through different keys. The serious wish for forgiveness and peace (the "deep peace" lyrics are part of this song) is contrasted with a light-hearted sound of this song, maybe meaning hope. The Latin parts, adequately set in Gregorian style, are sung by the choir. The English verses are soloed by Ben. Their pentatonic melodics, together with Ben's sweet voice, bring a positive basic attitude. Ben's duet partner sadly is not credited, but can it be Steven?
The music of the verses to me evokes an image of flower buds beginning to bloom ... obviously, I perceive the music as very hopeful. And also something unique happens: Hearing the "flowing" notes (as well as its further repetitions with other or no words), I pleasantly feel it physically in my spine, like a small support, hard to describe. I feel a lot listening to music, but this is new to me.
Attendite is truly enchanting!
I like the cheerful "Gaudete". The dancing mood is preceded by a dreamy solo introduction that I've always heard being sung very well by Sam C. (here), Liam C., Matthew J., Gabe. My first soloist at it was Liam, I had never heard the song before, and I was blown away by the beauty of both tune and Liam's voice. I am also very fond of Matthew Jansen, who blew me away a second time.
Listening to the "Luminosa" recording, I prefer the live version from Ireland. The studio one's sound after the introduction is too dry: as if the choir sang it in a room which is too small for this song's power. Adding reverberation would have done good to it. Sam's solo is fine!
A wonderful song and I am so glad to have found it! There is a subliminal thrill throughout, created by dissonances, which are delightfully sustained e. g. at 0:18, "lie" (right word to be prolonged that way); the particular harmonic ways; the melody; the instrumentation. Ben's piano and deeper "We wake and whisper a while / But the day gone by" is actually quite creepy. But it's never overdone, it remains pleasant for the ears altogether. During the song the tension rises (from "Very old are the brooks" onwards), and then the voices blend - I love it! - and end in something like a slow trill, very nicely composed.
The contemplative music suits the poetic of the lyrics very well. Ah yes, I have just looked up the words, for the first time paying any attention to them, and seen that they speak about "buds that break" - how funny that I felt exactly this image before with another song of this same album, Attendite.
Where'er you walk from "Semele"
A lovely aria from a Händel oratorio/opera and Ben is the one to sing it! The only one forever? I'd like to hear it live, but Ben set the bar so high that it is very hard to find a successor for him in this very piece. Really stunning performance. Splendid voice, elastic and flexible. Very expressive, gentle, warm, but shining tone. It fascinates me so much that mostly when I listen to it, I feel like a, as we say, "hypnotised rabbit". The choir supports Ben wonderfully with adding the harmonies, gently enfolding his singing. Very enjoyable song, belonging to a totally different genre.
The song uses "Clair de Lune" from the Suite bergamasque by Debussy, Robert's lyrics match the title. The 3rd piece that was unknown to me. For this one, I will need some more time to get used to the Libera version. I find that, due to Debussy's harmonies, it wholly corresponds to Libera. Libera's version is tone colour (image of tone) much more than tune, so very well maintaining the impressionism.
I think what disturbs me is the extremely high register for the solo voices, and although I love Ben's and Steven's voices, here I don't feel really good with that height. It's all sung perfectly (high C!!), but somehow, in this song, it's too much for my ears, and in my opinion it would have been better not to take over the original key, but to choose a lower one.
This is the song where I couldn't defeat my curiosity before the CD was mine, and my first listen was: Just awww, this is a dream of a song! How could I keep myself away from it?? (Actually, I heard it while I was supposed to be packing my things for the trip to the Ely concert last April, but I couldn't get up anymore and instead remained sitting there listening ... and listening ... with endless goosebumps. And: The very first note reminded me of Voca Me, and the pitch seemed to be the same ... which proved true, but then it goes on so extremely differently. )
It still captivates me entirely with its unequaled mood. Gentle melody, gentle harmonies, gentle arrangement, Steven's marvelous solo. I LOVE the song.
As I referred to this Stabat in my "Hope" review, I permit myself to just copy a relevant passage from there, as nothing has changed for me since then:
filiarheni wrote: ↑<span title="Sat Jun 17, 2017 1:03 pm">7 months ago</span>I feel Stabat to be a silent, introverted, sympathetic, praying pain (small tone steps make it clear) with a focus on the harmonies, and it seems to me that the pain is more observed and described with sympathy. Somehow, it is obvious that the purpose of the whole situation ultimately was a good one. [...]Stabat - heart-softening; Stabat Mater - heartbreaking. I am at the mercy at both of them. Robert knows extremely well how to handle Stabat Mater words!
That's a very nice song, too, beginning in an unusual way by a solo male voice (it's solo, no?). Melodies and voices alternate and smoothly glide from one part to the next and also mingle. My favourite bit is the "Sancte, sancte": There is a special atmosphere here as if the music is dancing freely in space, radiating energy in a noticeable way. - Simon Beston is credited as a soloist, but I don't know him or his voice at all, so maybe someone can tell me where exactly he sings or is the deep male voice him?
The song is quite long compared to others, but it needs the time for its calm, step-by-step development. Very mystic song!
I've never been a fan of Sanctus (I), probably because the place was already occupied by the Swingle Singers' vocal version, but, surprising enough even for myself, I am gladly prepared to warm to this Sanctus II now. It uses more melodies of the Pachelbel original and thus displays a wider variety. I also find it more delicate than the other one. I'd like to hear it without the drumset, which in my opinion is too "heavy", but I love the congas (I believe it's congas). Fine song.
Concluding my impressions, my favourite songs on this album are (in no order, therefore alphabetic): Attendite, Stabat and Vespera, closely followed by Silencium.
The music of the whole "Luminosa" CD appears to me as very transparent: The voice groups can well be distinguished from each other. The tone is restrained, almost fragile (both meant in an only positive way!), even a song like Sacris Solemnis is light somehow. Musically, it is super-interesting, concerning the harmonies above all, and it contains so much of what I love in Libera. So, this album absolutely matches my taste and I'm sooo happy to have it - I wouldn't have wanted to miss it any longer!
Possibly, it sounds strange to the "older fan staff" that in 2018 I am that enthusiastic about an album from 2001. But it's true: With this album I feel to have struck gold! Except for Lacrymosa, there is not one song I'd skip.
Of course, there is a huge distance not only in time, but also in style between "Luminosa" and the symphonic, highly dynamic "Hope", the contrary somehow, but I would never dare to say that one is objectively better or worse. For me, all Libera CDs can peacefully co-exist, and that's ideal. Big compliment to everybody who has ever been involved in them, as there is a perceptible development from the beginning up to now, but the previous albums in no way have reason to hide away from the newer ones.
Libera - thankfully!!! - preserves their characteristics and at the same time they find access to new musical territories. So, for me the old pieces are not out of date, only different, and simply add to the enormous variety Libera offers us, while, I repeat myself, reliably staying true to themselves.
P.S. At this moment, while I'm formatting this text, I am listening to Steven's Ave Maria and again feel a deep happiness to have found Libera.