Soaring Angels


Almost 18 years after Telarc’s legendary recording engineer, Michael Bishop, recorded Ensemble P.A.N.’s Angeli in 20-bit “Spatializer surround-sound,” I marvel at how beautifully he and producer Elaine Martone transformed a recording studio in Lenox, Massachusetts into a three-dimensional cathedral. The superb sound they achieved miraculously extends out from my sound system, filling the room as it soars to the ceiling. That soaring quality is central to the ancient and modern repertoire on a disc titled Angeli: Music of Angels.

When the famed 12th century nun, Hildegard von Bingen, wrote what can be considered the inspiration for the album, “O vos Angeli,” she wished to express her religious order’s ecstatic dedication to angels who watch over nations and know the heart of God. Eight centuries later, Boston-based composer Patricia Van Ness, in “Ego sum Custos Angela” (I am your Guardian Angel), used the same system of musical notation as favored by the scribes of Hildegard’s era to again allow musicians to pace their performance in response to the meaning and accents of words and the shape of melodic phrases.

This is where the sublime musicianship of Ensemble P.A.N. comes to the fore. Together with guest Ensemble Tapestry, with whom they share mezzo-soprano Laurie Monahan, and three male guest artists, they create a musical universe that fully achieves their goal: “Chant and polyphony for the Nine Orders of Angels and the Queen of the Angels.” I’ve loved this disc since the day of its release, and recommend it wholeheartedly.