The December 1999 sessions that produced The Water Is Wide yielded enough material for a second album. Hyperion With Higgins is the result, and its title reflects the sad fact that Billy Higgins, Lloyd's friend and soul mate and the session's drummer, passed away not long after the music was put to tape. The music's spiritual quality is heightened by the after-the-fact dedication. Quite unlike The Water Is Wide, Hyperion With Higgins is comprised entirely of Lloyd's original compositions, although the same lineup is featured: Lloyd, Higgins, John Abercrombie, Brad Mehldau, and Larry Grenadier.
With his idiomatic and graceful style, pianist Philip Martin has established himself as the foremost exponent of Gottschalk. Much of his music is by no means easy to play; it requires an impeccable technique matched with Èlan and joie de vivre for its most effective execution. Although not essentially a great composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk had a unique spontaneity and individuality which Martins performances bring vividly to the fore. The composers music was hugely popular during his lifetime and his works display a real melodic charm and a great sense of fun. Each of the eight discs in Martins extensive Gottschalk series has received wide acclaim and left pianophiles eagerly awaiting the next issue.
Stephen Layton and Polyphony have a long and fruitful relationship with the music of Arvo Pärt. Their recording of Triodion and other choral works (CDA67375) won a Gramophone Award and became a cult classic. The extraordinary purity of Polyphony’s singing is the perfect vehicle for music of such clean, elemental simplicity, such cathartic calm. This third Pärt album from Stephen Layton and Polyphony reaches right back, intriguingly, to the composer’s youthful modernist phase and spans nearly five decades—from 1963 to 2012—in the process. As with the album Triodion, it reflects an increasingly broad spread of languages and sources in Pärt’s chosen texts. Latin, German and English are joined here by Church Slavonic and Spanish. A range of biblical texts are set alongside ancient prayers.
Franco-Flemish composer Pierre de la Rue contributed prolifically to the rich musical life of the Low Countries during the late fifteenth century. If today he is less well-known than some of his contemporaries, the distinguished advocacy of Stephen Rice and The Brabant Ensemble remedies the balance with these authoritative performances of the Missa Nuncqua fue pena mayor, Salve regina VI and Missa Inviolata. Pierre de la Rue is another of those composers who contributed so prolifically to the richness of musical life in the Low Countries during the late fifteenth century. If today he is less well known than some of his contemporaries, the distinguished advocacy of Stephen Rice and The Brabant Ensemble should do much to redress the balance.