Stanhope: Lux Aeterna
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Stanhope: Lux Aeterna

Sydney Chamber Choir, Paul Stanhope

‘Lux Aeterna' - ‘eternal light' - the struggle of light and darkness: an ancient concept, inspiring music-making for centuries.

The new album from Australian composer Paul Stanhope brings this search for light into the present day, setting texts from across cultures and ages: Arabic poetry, Old Testament verses, liturgical chants, and present-day words from Australia and South America. By turns elegiac and urgent, serene and rapturous, Lux Aeterna lives out themes of optimism, humanity and empathy.

Stanhope’s music is recorded here with the choir he has collaborated with over the past decade, Sydney Chamber Choir, resulting in a uniquely satisfying depth of understanding of Stanhope’s musical language and the text which he sets.

Review

Lux Aeterna is Latin for ‘eternal light’. Paul Stanhope’s works often have dense harmonic ideas, but here, there’s a constant sense of lightness – both in the musicianship of the Sydney Chamber Choir and in these eloquent melodic ideas.

Paul Stanhope has collaborated with the Sydney Chamber Choir many times (so much so that he was their musical director for a while). Straight away, you can feel the choir’s ease with Stanhope’s style. There are some fiendishly difficult moments in these works, but they seem to handle them effortlessly, bringing out Stanhope’s distinctive choral style. This choir often specialises in baroque repertoire. Here, there’s a light touch throughout the works that otherwise could have become stodgy in the concentrated harmonies.

I’m going to listen again with the original texts in front of me, along with translations, because I think there’s more to learn about each of these works. I’ve listened to almost all of Stanhope’s recorded works and I find something new to discover with each subsequent hearing. This complex and fascinating exploration of different texts from across the world (and through the ages) almost needs repeat listens to truly understand and appreciate all it has to offer.


Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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