Specially recorded by the BBC Singers (the BBC's own full-time professional choir, and one of the world's great vocal ensembles) conducted by their Conductor Laureate Stephen Cleobury, the timeline gives a bird's eye view of some of the peaks of the choral repertoire, of the developments in choral writing over the centuries, and of the music of some of the modern-day composers.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (b.1934)
Peter Maxwell Davies has been writing choral music at every stage of his career, from the elaborately conceived Five Motets, for soloists, chorus and instrumental ensemble, of 1959 to the major oratorio Job in 1997.
He enjoys composing works which 'split the difference', being attractive to amateurs by giving them new challenges, and also to professionals by providing substantial musical material.
Westerlings was written for the quincentenary of Uppsala University in Sweden. Its first complete performance was given by the BBC Singers. Maxwell Davies describes the work as Four songs and a prayer, with seascapes. The four songs - to texts by George Mackay Brown - form movements 2, 4, 6 and 8, whilst the word-less seascapes are movements 1, 3, 5 and 7. The prayer which forms the final 9th movement is in Old Norse, a language specific to Orkney.
The complete piece is an extremely virtuosic work, making enormous demands of technique and stamina on the performers. The excerpt included here is from the second of the seascapes - an atmospheric and stark evocation of the waters around the composer's Orkney home, and music which sits as a choral companion to the composer's many orchestral seascapes.