Album Roxanna Panufnik's Love Abide

Panufnik: Love Abide by Colla Voce Singers, Lee Ward, London Mozart Players, London Oratory School Schola, Barnaby Smith, Voces8, Heather Shipp, Mark Stone, David Ogden, Exultate Singers, Richard Johnson, Kiku Day, Ben Fletwood Smyth, Gilles Sinclair, Ben Fleetwood Smyth, Tom Little

British composer Roxanna Panufnik's new album Love Abide explores the theme of spiritual love through a choral perspective. Andrew Stewart finds her music full of rewarding answers.

Label: CLASSICAL

Rating 4

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Compassion and universal loving-kindness are easy to preach, much harder to live. Roxanna Panufnik’s work concerns their enactment through sound, transforming abstract concepts into music that appeals to the heart and spirit of our common humanity, what philosopher David Hume called ‘fellow-feeling’.

The choral pieces on Love Abide deal in the positive rather than sentimental emotions of love, the former made for sharing, the latter made to promote an individual’s self-interested appearance of selflessness. Motherhood, explains Panufnik, broadened her spiritual outlook. She began exploring the essential wisdom of the world’s great faiths with the birth of her first child in 2002. Much of her art since, often created for the youngsters of the London Oratory Schola or the London Mozart Players, has been dedicated to the promotion of human flourishing. 

The choral works on this album were inspired and variously influenced by the vast cultural legacy of the Abrahamic religions, the introspective beauty of Zen Buddhism and Sufi mysticism, and diverse contemplative traditions of sacred chant and verse. Its title work, Love Abide, flirts dangerously at first with ‘oriental’ pastiche before finding its individual and powerful expressive voice. Panufnik here pairs 13th-century Persian poet Rumi’s sublime poem ‘Love is the master’ with the great hymn to compassionate love from 1 Corinthians. Her musical style is tonal, often brightly coloured in harmony and spicy combinations of sounds; it also naturally embraces ancient folk and chant idioms.

The composer’s craft proves faithful servant to her invention, supporting the commingling of melodic, harmonic and textual idioms from often hermetic sacred worlds and offering an exquisite metaphor for human interdependence: listen, for example, to her Magnificat, conceived for Anglican Evensong and interleaved with the words of the Roman Catholic Ave Maria. The meditative stillness of Zen Love Song

and Panufnik’s two settings of the Missa de Angelis cast tender reflections on life’s impermanence from two distinct musical and philosophical perspectives. Those moved to ask ‘What is love?’ should find rewarding answers here.

Artists: VOCES8; London Oratory School Schola, London Mozart Players, Exultate Singers/Barnaby Smith, David Ogden, Lee Ward

The album features specially the commissioned animations (above) by artist Mischa Giancovich, aka Mischa Ying, for Love is the Master and Zen Love Song.

Read our Pieces of Me interview with Roxanna Panufnik here.

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