CARSON COOMAN (b.1982): As We Are Changed.
Catalogue Number: 08X064
Label: Convivium Records
Description: This ambitious oratorio seems to mark something of a change in emphasis for Cooman's music, much of it previously notable for its religious, often explicitly liturgical, intent. The libretto, by Evan Tait, a "renowned librettist, who leads music retreats and training events", is about change and transformation, of the spiritual sort. Drenched in symbolism, sometimes obscure, it makes much use of cosmological metaphors; there seems to be some sort of St Cecilia narrative (cf. Dryden, Purcell, Handel, et al.) going on as well, with the transformative, restorative and transfigurative powers of music being the central theme of the work’s second part. What has not changed, though is the effortless communicativeness of Cooman's music, honed through the production, to date, of some 1500 opus numbers. If anything, this work feels like an attempt to reach out to an even wider audience, adding stylistic influences to the composer’s familiar, though constantly refreshed, idiom of freely modal tonality that draws on the harmonic conventions of Mediæval and Renaissance music as much as those of the romantic era. This is the first time, for example, that post-minimalism has been a prominent feature (in a few movements) in a major work by Cooman; while the choral and vocal traditions of church music form the backbone of the work’s style, some sections have traces of the consonant instant approachability of "new spirituality", and some of the solo numbers have a whiff of Broadway or Hollywood about them. There are several sections of great beauty among the episodes rooted in the choral tradition, and some with a highly effective sense of drama. One thing is for certain, though, whatever the idiom of the moment, Cooman‘s vast experience ensures that everything is executed with the utmost skill. Sarah Fox (soprano), Robert Murray (tenor), Choir of Royal Holloway, London Mozart Players; Rupert Gough.