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Disc review: Robert Kyr


Robert Kyr

“The Cloud of Unknowing” and “Songs of the Soul”

Conspirare, soloists and the Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra, conductor Craig Hella Johnson

[Harmonia Mundi]

4 stars

It is no surprise to a living soul anymore that some of the most beautiful music to be written and performed in the classical tradition in our century is religious choral music.

This is almost shockingly exquisite music – based on the poetry of 16th century Spanish mystic writers (St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross) as well as a 14th century monk and magnificently performed by one of the great current choral aggregates with soloists soprano Esteli Gomez and David Farwig.

The music is almost vengefully tonal, as if anything else would be inhuman violation. It is also deeply moving. Kyr is a 62-year old composer who says that these are two cantatas, a two-part cycle that is “my deepest personal response to the horrific violence of our age, which has only continued to intensify with the massacre of innocents (and innocence) in Newtown, Connecticut, followed by the incomprehensible horror in Boston. Although we live in the 21st century, we are still compelled to plead ‘why?’ with the anguished cry of the psalmist.

“My response to unspeakable violence is to direct my attention toward creation rather than destruction, toward unity rather than separation, and toward love rather than anything less inclusive. I believe that music has the unique power to directly connect us to the core of who we truly are. It reveals aspects of the inner life force that binds us together into one humanity.” Out of so much noble rhetorical idealism, thousands of composer’s statements have been written over the centuries, few of them accompanying music as beautiful as this. This isn’t just musical consonance, it takes no special discernment to hear intellectual and spiritual consonance too.

Beautiful music magnificently done.

– Jeff Simon