September 14, 2002


Song of Songs
The Song Company
Celestial Harmonies
* * * * 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 16th–century 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 voices—two sopranos, alto, tenor, baritone and bass—get 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 Arizona–based 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:

Deborah Jones