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Owain Park - Choral Works - Gramophone

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Twenty-something composer Owain Park is very much the rising star on the British choral scene, carving out a reputation as both a choral director and a composer. Choirs (and record labels) have been quick to catch on, and this is by no means the first disc on the market to feature his music, even if it is the first one to do so exclusively.

A former pupil of John Rutter, who has written the disc’s generous booklet notes (which, not without some justification, draw comparisons with Vaughan Williams), the reasons behind Park’s growing popularity with choirs are not hard to discern from this collection of 14 pieces written over the past five years. He has that Rutter touch of knowing instinctively what choirs best respond to, what creates the most arresting effects and how to use minimum material to maximum advantage.

Beyond that, he looks out into a choral world where beauty of sound (you would be hard-pressed to find anything sounding more beautiful than the luminous Above the stars my Saviour dwells, with Imogen Russell the ethereal solo soprano), quasi athletic articulation (superbly demonstrated in the invigorating The Wings of the Wind) and close-harmony clusters (For the Fallen) are considered essentials for success. He also looks back to the great traditions of English choral music ranging from the so-called Golden Age (Trinity Fauxbourdons) through folk song (I wonder as I wander), to Britten and Howells (The spirit breathes, the only non-a cappella work here, with a highly virtuoso organ part extrovertly played by Park’s successor as Organ Scholar at Trinity College, Alexander Hamilton).

As Rutter points out, Park has the luxury of working with one of today’s most accomplished British choirs, and one with which he himself has close personal associations. It is inconceivable that these pieces could be performed better; the choral sound is sumptuous, the detail immaculately nurtured by Stephen Layton and the absolute precision of pitching and balancing a joy to behold.

While a distinct personal voice is yet to emerge, there is enough of real musical quality and individuality here to make one suspect that Owain Park is no mere one-minute wonder but a composer who is going to make a very distinct mark on the British choral tradition.

Marc Rochester

Owain Park - Choral Works
Hyperion Records CDA68191