Guest Post: Light Eternal—The Choral Music of Morten Lauridsen (Trailer)

Last Friday, Deutsche Grammophon released the CD Light Eternal—The Choral Music of Morten Lauridsen. Amazon’s pre-order price for the CD is $12.59, which is a truly excellent price. But this CD would be a bargain at full list. There is also a 24/88 hi-res PCM download from HDTracks, reasonably priced at nearly 90 minutes of music for $20.98 (There are two bonus tracks with the download). The album will also be streaming from Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal. And if you don’t mind reduced sound quality and the occasional advertisement, the album appears as an authorized playlist on YouTube. That’s right! You can hear the whole thing before you buy it!

My experience in producing and selling classical-music recordings is that most people don’t have formal training in music history or music theory, but they do want beauty in their lives, and they recognize it when they hear it. This is one of those recordings. If you care about choral music, especially contemporary American choral music, or if you simply want to add some beauty to your life, please vote with your wallet and buy this CD (or download), and also please consider buying half a dozen, a dozen, or more, as stocking stuffers (or, as “holiday,” or even non-holiday gifts). Lauridsen’s music is contemporary music that honors the entire tradition of choral singing, from O magnum mysterium‘s soundworld, which to me calls to mind the soundworld of Allegri, to Madrigali—Six FireSongs on Italian Renaissance Poems, which is perhaps best described as modernism—but with a heart and a soul.

Trailer embed and track listing after the jump.

I love the way Lauridsen gets across the architecture of the piece (Lux Æterna) and the need for the longest lines possible… .

All tracks:
The Chamber Choir of Europe, Nicol Matt, conductor

Works presented:

Lux Æterna (with I Virtuosi Italiani)

From: Les Chansons des Roses (Rilke):
1. En une seule fleur and
5. Dirait-on (Morten Lauridsen, piano)

From: Madrigali—Six FireSongs on Italian Renaissance Poems:
1. Ov’e, lass’, il bel viso? (download-only bonus track) and
6. Se per havervi, oime

Prayer (Dana Gioia)(Morten Lauridsen, piano)(world-première recording)

Ya eres mia (Neruda)(Morten Lauridsen, piano)

Sa nuit d’eté (Rilke)
Soneto de la noche (Neruda)
Sure on this Shining Night (Agee)(Morten Lauridsen, piano)
Epilogue: Voici le soir (Rilke)

O magnum mysterium

Where Have the Actors Gone (Lauridsen)(Morten Lauridsen, piano)(download-only bonus track)

These definitive performances, so engagingly recorded, earn my highest possible recommendation.

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10 Replies to “Guest Post: Light Eternal—The Choral Music of Morten Lauridsen (Trailer)”

  1. Tony LaHood

    Is this a re – release? I recall buying Lux Eterna years ago after hearing it on NPR. In any case, it’s magnificent, and any lover of choral music should buy it, along with anything by John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers.

    • John Marks

      Hi, Tony.

      It’s all new recordings by the Chamber Choir of Europe, recorded by Deutsche Grammophon. Lux Æterna was first recorded in 1998 with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and at least three other times since. One of those versions, released in 2007, was with the Chamber Choir of Europe, but, knowing a bit about choirs and choruses, I’d expect there to have been some turnover, and in any event. these performances were recorded in the presence of the composer and on some tracks his participating as pianist. Further, anyone who sang on the 2007 version has had ten years to think things over!

      This recording excels at clarity, both in vocal articulation and in the recording. That said, my Fantasy version would be Andris Nelsons conducting the Boston Symphony in Symphony Hall with the Tanglewood chorus, recorded by Tony Faulkner. But for that to happen, I would have to win the Lottery.


      john marks

  2. CliffG

    The choral company my wife sang with, the Seattle Choral Company, did Lux Aeterna years ago. I have it on cd, but it is a private recording I believe. I think they may have premiered something by him a couple of decades ago.
    Quality choral music in the right setting is wondrous. Buy the album, lower the lights, and surrender.

  3. Rob De Witt

    The profoundly Orthodox Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, has caused to be formed a 16-voice ensemble entitled B16, in honor of the great champion of traditional music in the Catholic Mass, Pope Benedict XVI. They’re all great singers; the ones I’ve worked with are better than I am.

    Alas, my application has yet to result in an audition, but I maintain hopes. Like Cliff says, high-level ensemble singing is even more satisfying than soloing, a powerful form of prayer and worship.

    • John Marks


      Not to open a can of worms; but, one of the reasons that high-level choral singing is so instinctively satisfying is that properly-trained human voices can sing pure, non-tempered intervals. “Ringing Fifths” is the foundation of the Barbershop school of singing. Non-tempered intervals allow for the creation of sum-and-difference, or “Tartini” tones… .

      Again, not to start a long lecture in music theory (which I am prone to do), and not to open a 5-gallon bucket of worms, but in a system of pure harmonies, a-sharp and b-flat are actually slightly different pitches depending on the home key you are singing in.

      The compromise that lets a modern equal-temperament piano play in all keys without being grossly out of tune in any, means that a modern piano is unavoidably slightly out of tune in all. Really. Human voices can (but not always do) get around that problem. (And I speak only of the center octave of a piano. As you get into the treble, the problem of the enharmonicity of the metal in the strings means that the piano technician has to fudge things more and more.)

      For more about the technical subject of keyboard tunings and temperaments:

      And for Morten Lauridsen’s background on composing O magnum mysterium:


      john marks

      • Rob De Witt

        You’re preaching to the choir, bub. I’ve long since stopped trying to explain to piano players that the notes I sing, whether they can hear it or not, depend upon their meaning in a specific key. The joy of singing one-on-a-part with high-level singers is that every note you hear is……perfect. Orchestra players can do it too, of course, but it often takes a few run-throughs before they apprehend the specificity of my intonation. Early-music players commonly create exquisite intonation despite the imperfections of their instruments. Singing Gregorian with experts like Christoph Tietze is an occasion of profound gratitude for me.

        Since I was a child I’ve been able to sing a capella – and improvise – in tune because I can hear the key, and therefore the complete sonic environment of the piece in question. So can my daughter, by the way; both of us can sing harmony parts to stuff we’ve not yet heard. Bach arias require a score, a recording, and about 2 days for me to internalize.

        I’m self-taught, and sight-singing can still be a challenge when I’m in the company of the conservatory graduates I’ve been working with over the last few years. But it’s still a guilty pleasure to watch a conductor recognize that I know where we’re at in the harmony and can outline it by arpeggio when communicating areas of concern.


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