Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Warmth, color, texture in treble clef – the voices of In Mulieribus in "Live 2"

If you would like to experience women’s voices making warm, ethereal music, then you should hear the singing of In Mulieribus in its new album, “Live 2.” Released just a couple of months ago, “Live 2” is the fourth recording of In Mulieribus, a Portland-based female vocal ensemble. It contains ten selections from programs that the ensemble performed from 2009 to 2014.

The selections feature sacred music from the Middle Ages and a couple of pieces by contemporary composers Craig Kingsbury and Ivan Moody, which are inspired by Early Music. Unified vowels, pure intonation, and just a hint of vibrato from the eight voices of In Mulieribus create a warmth and depth that is an absolute pleasure to hear, starting with the “Venite omens cristicole” of the “Codes calixtinus,” which dates by to the 12th century. The “Ave verum corpus” of Josquin Des Préz, has a very low passage for altos that may come as a surprise. The lively “From Virgin’s Womb” by Renaissance composer William Byrd contains a lovely solo by Hannah Penn. “Thys endere nyght” contains lilting singing by Penn and soprano Catherine van der Salm depicting an exchange between the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus. The “Hodie Christus natus est” of Portland-based composer Kingsbury and the “Cum natus esset Iesus” of British composer Moody, convey the tranquil and timelessness of the Christmas story. The ensemble is equally impressive in its singing of “Mervele noght, Joseph” from the 15th Century Ritson Manscript and in works by French composers Elzéar Genet Carpentras and Antoine Brumel.

Several years ago, I purchased a CD recording of the acclaimed women’s quartet Anonymous 4 and was struck by their pristine sound. That quartet is seen as the gold standard for Early Music performance by women’s vocal ensembles. Yet the group’s recording left me with a feeling of coldness and thinness. It seemed that accuracy trumped emotion. I wasn’t expecting anything operatic, but every piece seemed cut and dried. There wasn’t all that much intensity. In any case, I became disinterested in hearing women’s ensembles that do Early Music (and music in the style of early music). With this new recording of In Mulieribus, I have changed my mind. This group generates much warmth and vibrancy, which can be felt from the recording. I strongly suggest that you give “Live 2” a listen.

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