An all-too-rare new recording from Polyphony and Stephen Layton presents highlights from the choral repertoire by four twentieth-century American giants: Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson. Framed by Thompson’s understated favourites Alleluia and Fare Well, the programme includes Bernstein’s Missa brevis, Copland’s early set of four motets, and—of course—Barber’s inimitable Agnus Dei.
Grainger’s mastery of choral textures shines out of this wide-ranging collection of folk-song arrangements, each highly individual and memorable. Plus his friend Grieg’s finely scored religious settings. Superior performances by Stephen Layton and Polyphony.
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.
An entertaining and instructive lesson from Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton. Aided by Arlen Roth and Tommy Shannon, Chris gives an in-depth demonstration that includes: One-handed rolls; Double hand sticking; Getting the right feel; 6/8 shuffles; Triplet roll fills; Use of the bass drum in shuffles; Choosing and tuning your kit.