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Sheer beauty

Choral music by
Bernhard Lewkovitch -
enjoyed by

'... superb advocates for a composer who well deserves far more of our attention.'

Bernhard Lewkovitch - Apollo's Art. © 2002 dacapo records

It has taken a little time to arrive, but few CDs have given me such pleasure as this collection of choral works well chosen from the last fifty years of a creative life that has been unjustly neglected of late. Bernhard Lewkovitch, born in 1927, quickly became known in his native Denmark as the modern equivalent of a Renaissance master, writing devout choral music of an intensity that draws the listener to appreciate most keenly its highly skilled craftsmanship. His inspiration has always been within, or closely associated to the richness of the Catholic liturgy's prayer and devotional texts, and his musical thought brings into modern focus the spirit of those often astringent madrigals by Gesualdo and Monteverdi. And there is sheer beauty in the lines from which he weaves his textures.

The Three Psalms date from 1952, and this extract from the second, De Profundis, written with a flexibility that requires few bar-lines, serves as an introduction to a profound and peaceful style that has remained ever since [listen -- track 2, 0:48-1:45]. Also from this period are the fine and succinct Tre Madrigali di Torquato Tasso.

Moving on more than forty years, his setting of Ave Regina caelorum shows still the extraordinary instinctive sympathy Lewkovitch has for voices [listen -- track 4, 0:01-1:01]. The CD's title refers to Four English Madrigals written in 1993 with texts taken from an anonymous collection of English madrigal verses dating from the late sixteenth century. The verse of the third begins: 'Though Philomena lost her love, fresh notes she warbleth yet again ...' [listen -- track 17, 1:04-1:37]

Three of the works involve the addition of discreet and yet colourfully gentle instrumental parts. A setting of Pater Noster (1983) has two each oboes, bassoons and horns; the four pieces making up Via Stenonis add a brass group of two cornets and three trombones; and the Three Passion Motets of 1996, written in honour of Tomàs Luis da Victoria use a clarinet, horn and bassoon [listen -- track 19, 0:33-1:30].

Lewkovitch's work is delightful, peaceful, enviably masterly, and most rewarding to perform. Mogens Dahl and the Jutland Chamber Choir certainly come over as superb advocates for a composer who well deserves far more of our attention. This fine recording is an excellent way either to renew or to begin a familiarity with his work.

Copyright © 23 July 2003 Patric Standford, Wakefield, UK


Bernhard Lewkovitch - Apollo's Art - Jutland Chamber Choir

8.224152 DDD Stereo 60'17" 2000 dacapo Copenhagen

The Jutland Chamber Choir; Members of Aarhus Symphony Orchestra; Mogens Dahl, conductor

Bernhard Lewkovitch: 3 Salmi Op 9 (1952); Anthems to the Blessed Virgin (1994); Tre madrigali di Torquato Tasso Op 13 (1955); Via Stenonis (1987) for mixed choir, 2 cornets and 3 trombones; Apollo's Art - Four English Madrigals (1993); Three Passion Motets - ad honorem Tomàs Luis Da Victoria (1996) for choir, clarinet, horn and bassoon; Pater Noster (1983) for mixed choir and six instruments



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