September 14, 2002
SONG OF SONGS - THE SONG COMPANY, ROLAND PEELMAN -
Song of Songs
The Song Company
* * * * 1/2
As close readers of the King James Bible know, there's some pretty sexy
stuff in the Old Testament, nothing more so than the Song of Solomon.
"O daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you/If you find my lover,/What
will you tell him?/Tell him I am faint with love" goes part of
the text used by 16thcentury composer Tomas Luis de Victoria.
(The song ends: "He has gone up to his garden/To pluck his fruit.")
Succulent imagery abounds. Spices and fruits, particularly the pomegranate,
are constantly evoked and nature is fecund and benign. The Song Company
offers 22 settings of Song of Songs texts (including no fewer than three
of Nigra sum sed), all from the 15th and 16th centuries, and
with Monteverdi, Palestrina and Melchior Franck among the composers.
Under conductor Roland Peelman the voicestwo sopranos, alto, tenor,
baritone and bassget close and personal in the incredibly intimate
way medieval polyphony demands. It really does send shivers up the spine
and everyone is in extremely fine voice as the Song Company six sinuously
weave around and about one another. The recording was made in the Cardinal
Cerreti Memorial Chapel at what is now St Patrick's Estate, Manly (it
used to be a seminary), and its acoustics serves the singers exceptionally
well. The sound is luminous and the effect numinous. Celestial Harmonies
is an Arizonabased label whose discs are imported by Planet Distribution.
They can be found in the larger music stores, but some readers might
find the website more convenient: www.harmonies.com.