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Classical Music Review

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Exultet Terra
Choral Music of Hilary Tann


Composer: Hilary Tann
Performed by: Cappella Clausura
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 13 January 2017

Navona Records release Cappella Clausura's, directed by Amelia LeClair, new release of the choral works of Hilary Tann, entitled Exultet Terra. For the first half of the album, LeClair and Tann juxtapose Tann’s works for women’s voices, a cappella, with pieces by Hildegard von Bingen, in soaring arrangements by LeClair. The second half is the Exultet Terra suite of five movements for double choir and double reed quintet of English horn, oboes, and bassoons. Tann uses a double choir to provide occasional antiphonal effects, and chooses the double reeds for their “earth-like combination, since reeds are like grasses.” Tann is known for taking inspiration from nature in her works...

Tann cites Hildegard von Bingen, recognized as one of the first female composers, as a special influence on these compositions: the responsory 'O Deus' is from von Bingen’s medieval opera Ordo Virtutum; the chant begins with two consecutive fifths, rising immediately to the 9th of the mode. Such leaps were unheard of in that era, and in chant repertoire in general. Tann quotes that first phrase of 'O Deus' in some form in all works here but 'The Moor'. In addition to paying homage to one of the first female composers, Tann sets texts by Anne Bradstreet, widely considered North America’s first published female poet, for both 'Contemplations' (8, 9) and 'Contemplations' (21, 22).

It's strange. I've lived on Dartmoor for ten years now, and regularly listen to the music I'm reviewing as I walk around this beautiful, unspoiled area of natural beauty. Now it could be that ten years of familiarity has deadened the beauty a little (or at the very least I've taken it for granted) but as I walked by Haytor this recording opened my eyes, once again, to the beauty of the countryside and I appeared to be seeing everything through fresh eyes.

This is an incredibly moving album that draws its inspiration not only from the past achievements of others, but also from nature. Play this and rediscover the beauty of nature.


Darren Rea

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