One might not readily associate “new complexity” composer Brian Ferneyhough with the choral idiom: but as this CD release by MSV demonstrates, even very challenging fare is eminently performable, given the right choir. The BBC Singers are one of the best singing groups on the planet, and prove it time and again by meeting the many thorny difficulties found in Ferneyhough’s scores. What’s more, with the technical concerns surmounted, the pieces contained herein prove to be most attractive indeed.
Both The Doctrine of Similarity and Stelae for Failed Time, excerpts from the composer’s recent (and quite successful) opera Shadowtime, weave instruments, voices, and, on the latter work, electronics into fascinating textures which combine a wide range of textual references with multifaceted, at times surprisingly lush, musical surfaces. The Missa Brevis and Two Marian Motets, liturgical works composed in the sixties (although the motets were recently revised), are perhaps too formidable for liturgical use, but are sensitive and dramatically compelling settings of these venerable texts. While it’s certainly adventurous listening, Ferneyhough’s Choral Music is surprisingly singable.