The centrepiece of this CD is Jackson’s To the Field of Stars, a response to the 1,000-year-old pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Divided into seven movements or ‘stations’, it traces the pilgrimage in a literal sense as well as relating to the psychological imperative of reaching a life-changing goal.
The piece time-travels across the centuries by drawing on the 12th-century Codex Calixtinus as well as texts by – among others – Whitman, Cowper and Emily Dickinson. With a solo cello (Kate Gould) and percussion in the mix, the result is an extremely attractive, richly textured work of about 30 minutes’ duration.
The 40 or so voices of the Nonsuch Singers are well suited to Jackson’s piece; under their director Tom Bullard they produce a consistently clean, bright sound and a pleasing blend that suits both Jackson’s work and the other pieces, all chosen for their associations with the stars and the heavens.
The performers sound more engaged with Jackson’s piece and the other contemporary works (by Pärt and Dove, as well as another by Jackson) more than they do in the Victoria and Byrd. Nevertheless, this is a welcome debut CD from this group.