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1731 albums sorted by Bestsellers and filtered by Sacred Vocal Music
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 9, 2018 | harmonia mundi

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released February 23, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik - 5 étoiles de Classica
What a fascinating assembly work this is by Simon-Pierre Bestion, like creating a Grand Cru from already sublime sources. On the first hand he took The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, by Heinrich Schütz, performed as a whole – but “interspersed” with a dozen wonderful madrigals from Johann Hermann Schein’s Israelsbrünnlein. Knowing both works were made in 1623 and that Schütz and Schein were good friends, one born in 1585, the other in 86, the stars really did align perfectly. But the distinctive feature of this recording is that for Schütz’s Resurrection, the singer in the role of the evangelist is no less than Byzantine cantor Georges Abdallah, whose unique voice, elocution, magnificent art of ornamentation and micro-deviations confer this partition − deliberately designed in an archaic way – an unsuspected richness. As for Israelsbrünnlein, Bestion selected nine madrigals out of the twenty-six featured in the collection and interspersed them between each numbers of The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, thus creating a sort of new piece, co-authored by Schütz and Schein. Furthermore he redistributed Schütz’s instrumentation, initially designed for four viols, but which benefits greatly from the addition of cornets and sackbuts – creating a subtle play of sound exchanges, from one musical cell to the other. Regarding Schein, the partition was originally designed for voices, with no indication on instruments, but in line with the customs of the era, nothing prevented a line, part or cell to be assigned to an instrument or instrumental group and to exchange freely with the voices, according to the interpreters’ imagination. Some madrigals were exclusively given to the orchestral ensemble – which became a proper orchestra a-la-Gabrieli –, others were a blend of instruments and voices. As the listener may guess, here is a truly exciting album, granted very unusual and original, but extraordinarily well crafted. And of course let’s not forget the exceptional acoustics of the chapel of the Palace of Versailles, which further adds to the musical mystery of the recording. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released June 8, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
In 1668, Dietrich Buxtehude, then thirty one years old, took up the very sought-after tenure of organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, then a Hanseatic metropolis of considerable relevance; the organist had at that time one of the most desirable social statuses. He soon caused a sensation with the church concerts he held outside of religious services and that happened every year, in the early evening, on the five Sundays preceding Christmas. During these “Abendmusiken” (vespertine music), as they were called, were sometimes performed great works falling withing the oratorio genre, but more often was performed a mix of instrumental pieces, church tunes, psalm arrangements and cantata-like works. From the 1700s, these series of concerts had become a major cultural event of the city. Released from the daily handling of religious music handled by the Marienkirche’s Cantor—as was often the case at the time in North Germany—, Buxtehude only composed works on his own initiative, which allowed him to give them a quality level noticeably higher than that of the Cantor, for example, forced to compose non-stop, from one Sunday to another. The cantatas recorded here demonstrate the high artistic ambitions of these vocal works: they often digress from stylistic and generic conventions of their time and answer the tasks imposed by the texts with bold musical solutions, daring and absolutely splendid. The sonatas from Buxtehude completing the vocal program of this disc are also characterized by their markedly experimental character. Olivier Fortin’s Masques Ensemble—recorder, strings, positive organ—and Lionel Meunier’s Vox Luminis join forces to offer us these gems from the turn of the North German 18th century, such gems that the young Bach didn’t hesitate, in 1705, to travel on foot from Arnstadt—a 100-league trip—to come listen to Buxtehude, his organ play and probably his famous Abendmusiken. © SM/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released September 21, 2018 | Phi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
For the fourth time on the Phi label, Philippe Herreweghe presents three cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach – Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4, Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild, BWV 79, and Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80. Written at different moments in the composer’s life and based to a large extent on the works of Martin Luther, these cantatas reflect a marked taste for dramaturgy, vivid word painting and an invariably astonishing use of instruments and voices. Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent give us an accomplished version of these masterpieces, confirming, if further proof were needed, their stature as ardent champions of Bach. © Outhere Music
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Sacred Oratorios - Released August 31, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
There is no shortage of parallels to be drawn between Caldara and Vivaldi: both Venetians, both boasting an impressive body of work running to several hundred pieces of all genres, both died in Vienna (in the same street and in the same penury!), although Caldara had written more operas and oratorios than the Red Priest. And here is one of these very 32 known oratorios, Maddalena ai piedi di Christo written in Venice around 1698; it is "oratorio volgare", that is, recited in Italian, rather than Latin. Originally written as an accompaniment to spiritual exercises, the oratorio came to replace profane operas when the theatres were closed, especially from November to Lent. It took on the guise of opera, and used many of its techniques: naves and altars were (re)decorated and mechanisms and costumes were employed. In reality, it was nothing but an opera with a religious theme... The words and the plot of Maddalena ai piedi di Christo are perfectly suited to these months of penitence. It is a drama of the moral breakdown that tortures the sinner who has to choose between worldly and heavenly love, between living a life of luxury and truly promising herself to Christ. The Le Banquet Céleste ensemble, led by Damien Guillon (who also sings the alto part of Divine Love), takes to this rare piece with fervour. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released October 26, 2018 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
For his first album as a soloist, the Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński chose to explore some of the rarest repertoires, to the point that several of the pieces presented here are world premieres. As a result, we are introduced to composers who are almost unknown today: Gaetano Schiassi (1698-1754), Domènec Terradellas (1711-1751) and Nicola Fago (1677-1745), alongside other composers who are famous today such as Hasse, Zelenka or Durante. Helped by the bass-baritone Yannis François, Orliński covers a large amount of time, from the end of the 17th century to the last third of the 18th century, though solely in the spiritual domain, with Masses, Dixit Dominus or sacred oratorios. That said, the vocal and instrumental writing borrows from baroque, with its vocalisations, its embellishments and its brightness. On top of this, the ensemble il pomo d'oro performs the work with great confidence. © SM/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released May 25, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Bach's "Dialogue Cantatas" generally portrayed Jesus in dialogue with the human soul, first tormented and then at peace. The three cantatas selected here by Berlin's Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, which has, over the years since 1982 (with over a million records sold!) brought together musicians from the city's different orchestras – first those under Soviet rule and then all orchestras following the fall of the Wall – are a part of this genre; all date from the great Leipzig period, specifically the third cycle written by Bach for Leipzig in 1726. It will come as no surprise, hearing these cantatas, that the essence of the first arias is desperate, heart-rending: and as they go on, they move towards relief and joy. It is in these first moments that we see Bach at his most intense, most pained, most chromatic, terribly modern as well as at his most romantic, profoundly lyrical and yet rigorous in the musical discourse. The most superbly original piece is surely the Cantata BWV 49, which begins with a Sinfonia with obbligato organ – in which the listener will recognise the final movement of the Harpsichord Concerto in E Major, when Bach recycled it a dozen years later – and continues with an aria with cello and oboe, both soloists immersed in the soprano's joyous voice; and we finish on a magnificent chorale with an aria – the aria being for the bass of the solo organ, while the soprano part sings the chorale's theme from on high: a staggering display of modernity. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 30, 2018 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet
Today, only three remain out of the nine Leçons de ténèbres that François Couperin has seemingly written. Composed for the “Religious Ladies” who belonged to the Order of the Poor Clares in the Abbey of Longchamp, near Paris, which was completely destroyed during the French Revolution, these Leçons represent the height of Baroque pietism from the end of Louis XIV’s reign, still completely permeated by the Jansenism from the previous century. As the abbey was open to the public, it became usual to give these Leçons de ténèbres not at night, but on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. This was a society event that the Parisians came to attend. Very popular in the second half of the 17th century, these lessons of darkness became a genre very sought-after by many composers, among whom Marc-Antoine Charpentier who composed at least thirty of them, but of those very few survived to the present day. If François Couperin covers this slightly archaic genre at the beginning of the 18th century, he managed to breathe into it a new form by blending the proper austerity and a very Italian expression of pain which give his pieces a troubling sensuality. The Troisième Leçon (Third Lesson), for two voices, is particularly ornamented with coloraturas filled with affectation. Thanks to the genius of François Couperin, this exacerbated expression of pain isn’t very far from the opera, whose representations were forbidden during Lent. You could therefore follow the delicious spectacle of the most feverish and subtle human passions under the pretext of religion. The ensemble Les Ombres, co-headed by Margaux Blanchard and Sylvie Sartre, offers us this new album the Leçons de ténèbres and extracts from Couperin’s masses and motets, in a chiaroscuro mood which skillfully blends the French rigor spirit and the sweet Italian theatrics. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released May 25, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice
In the 17th century, Roman churches were competing to put on the greatest show to celebrate their patron saints. On these occasions, extraordinary services were performed, where many different artists would be brought together, singers and instrumentalists alike, alongside ordinary musicians, for sumptuous pieces performed by several vocal and instrumental choirs. One contemporary description gives an idea of the scale: ten choirs and ensembles played together, two on fixed stages, and eight others distributed symmetrically right along the nave, on platforms built for the occasion. Every additional stage was provided with a positive organ, while many other instruments added to the sonic splendour. So that all the musicians could play well together in spite of the distance, "capi di coro” or time-keeping drummers, would play in unison. Orazio Benevolo (1605-1672) was one of the most remarkable architects of these extravagant, multi-choral monuments. Benevolo was a choirboy at the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome before he entered the upper echelons by taking the job of Chapel Master in 1638. The composer has left behind him an abundant set of works, containing no fewer than 34 motets for a range of players, including Regna terrae, written for twelve soprano parts distributed across six vocal choirs, each with its own basso continuo. We are also indebted to him for twelve versions of the Magnificat, for between eight and 24 voices, including one for 16 voices, in quadruple choir, which appears here. Hervé Niquet and his Concert Spirituel have made use of the ample acoustics in the Notre-Dame-du-Liban church in Paris, perfectly structured to hold several choirs distributed across the building, to create the sensations of immersion and spatial plenitude that the composer aimed for. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 7, 2013 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année - Hi-Res Audio

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 13, 2017 | SDG

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
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So much can be said about this new recording featuring among others − but as the pièce de résistance − Bach’s Magnificat, performed by John Eliot Gardiner, that we simply don’t know where to start! In 1983 – already 35 years ago! – Gardiner gave his first vision of Magnificat BWV 234 in D major; here the version in question is the BWV 234a in E flat major, the original and initial version, the – extended – one Bach wrote as soon as 1723 while the BWV 234 version (more often played nowadays) only arose from adjustments made ten years later. Of course one can debate on the advantages of one over the other but for this recording, Gardiner put emphasis on the brilliance, vibrancy and stunning virtuosity imposed by the E-flat major tone and vigorous tempi, in other words: undeniably modern! Magnificat is preceded by the Mass in F major, one of Bach’s four Lutheran masses, proper gems that are too rarely performed. It’s worth noting that most movements are recycled from previous cantatas, but with thorough rewrites of course! You’ll also find one of Gardiner’s favourite cantatas, Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet comfort, my Jesus comes), BWV 151, composed for the Christmas period. With his English Baroque Soloists, his Monteverdi Choir and a broad group of soloists (the alto parts are given to a male voice, it’s worth mentioning in case… it’s not your cup of tea), Gardiner is once again standing on top of a great success.
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 23, 2018 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
From the start of the 18th century, Lutheran Germany has kept the tradition of performing an oratorio for the Passion in Holy Week. In Hamburg, where Telemann is said to have spent 46 years as musical director, he would have overseen as many Passions. But if we include his previous jobs, that would take the number of works by Telemann for this theme alone to over sixty! These Passions could be strictly liturgical, that is, they could closely follow the text of one of the Gospels; but they could also liberally paraphrase the story of the Passion, following a version by a contemporary author; or they could represent a meditation on the events. And so Seliges Erwägen by Telemann, whose full title leaves no doubt as to the content: Oratorio of the Passion, or Spiritual Contemplation on the bitter suffering and death of Jesus Christ, to inspire prayer, in several meditations taken from the account of the Passion. Not a linear account of the Passion, as with Bach: but a series of individual meditations set to music. The work was first composed in 1719, and then reviewed and completed three years later for Hamburg, where the first performance took place on 19 March 1722 the success was considerable, and the work was performed again and again many times throughout the following decades. This was probably the most-performed work on the Passion in the 18th century, out ahead even of Telemann's Brockes Passion... There is no evangelist here, nor storyteller, but rather an evocation of the main events of the Passion. That is why there are only two main "roles" here: Christ, with six airs and six recitations, and the allegory of the Devotion (soprano or tenor) as the mouthpiece for the thoughts of the faithful, with eight airs and eight recitations. The sole narrator is Peter, with his denial and despair, and Caiaphas, the high priest who condemns Jesus, comes on for a single, very violent, air. This is very much a series of individual devotional meditations. The instrumentation in particular is extraordinarily rich. Alongside the strings, the continuo and the standard woodwind, a dash of colour is added by two horns, two chalumeaux, ancestors of the clarinet – what a pity that Bach never made the most of this sound – echoing recorders, a magnificent bassoon solo that intermingles with the soprano's voice; in short, once again, Teleman proves to us that far from being a mill for middle-of-the-road baroque, he is in fact one of the most imposing musical minds of his age. The Freiburger Barockorchester and a lovely soloists come together to perform this work.. © SM/Qobuz

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 10, 2017 | SDG

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released February 16, 2018 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - Diapason d'or / Arte
The cantata Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (Jesus gathered the twelve to Himself) BWV 22, holds a historic place in Bach’s work. Indeed he composed it while still in Köthen, as an audition piece for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig, and then conducted it on February 7th, 1723, maybe even singing the bass part himself. Famously the city council, unable to convince its preferred composers – Telemann, Graupner and two others –, decided to settle with “mediocre” Bach… The gospel of the day first announces his death and his resurrection by Christ and his disciplines. A modest orchestra: voices, strings, one oboe and continuo, but the musical content is – like in almost all of Bach’s cantatas – amongst the best he’s ever written. For the same celebration, Bach composed a new cantata the following year, Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott (Lord Jesus Christ, true Man and God) BWV 127. But it has almost nothing in common with the previous piece: here Bach offers a very impressive reflection on physical death. Throughout his cantatas he called for a blessed death to free himself from the vicissitudes of life on Earth, but this now reveals how much he may have feared physical death itself. The aria ”Die Seele ruht” is one of these sublime moments suspended in time, an ineffable tintinnabulum, in which the soprano and the oboe dialogue on a harrowing theme while the flutes and string pizzicatos symbolise the passing of time with incredible beauty. Finally it’s with Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat) BWV 75 that Bach started off his work in Leipzig, in St. Nicholas Church this time, as the cantatas were alternately performed in both churches. Probably because he wanted to start with a bang, he designed this cantata on a huge scale: fourteen numbers, divided in two parts. Of course Bach would have never been able to produce such vast and powerful partitions on a weekly basis, but there is a real substance to this Passion… and it’s with great passion that Philippe Pierlot, his Ricercar Consort and the soloists perform these masterpieces. © SM/Qobuz

Sacred Vocal Music - Released December 1, 2017 | BIS

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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We can only welcome the appearance of new recordings of Bach's Motets: these unique works which defy classification are also often difficult to date accurately. The common factor shared by those Motets which have survived to the present day (because many were lost) appears to be the purely choral conception of the musical discourse, from end to end, the absence of instrumentation - if they are played with instruments, the latter only back up the choral parts (excluding the BWV118, initially believed to be a cantata as it was written with a small musical accompaniment, but the form remains that of a short motet, hence the uncertainty about which classification to give it) - the deliberate archaism  of the words, and the likely funereal purpose of most of the works. The Norwegian Soloists' Choir (Det Norske Solistkor) is one of the foremost Norwegian musical ensembles and one of the best chamber choirs in Europe. The choir is just as comfortable with the classical/romantic repertoire as with contemporary music and makes frequent forays into music derived from romantic national folkloric works. The ensemble was founded in 1950 by the composer Knut Nystedt, who led it for four decades. In 1990, he was succeeded by Grete Pedersen, and she now directs the group - with the help of the Allegria Ensemble, also Norwegian - for this fine recording. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released October 24, 2014 | Erato - Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles de Classica
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Choirs (sacred) - Released October 1, 2011 | Brilliant Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 16, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
Mass by Bernstein, first performed in 1971, defies classification. It is not really a mass in the strict sense, but more of a kind of deconstruction of a traditional mass; after all, the full title is MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers and the theme resembles a divine service which turns sour before finally discovering universal peace. At the outset, the world seems to be at one, but then "street musicians" begin questioning the need for, or even the very existence of, a god. Cacophony reigns until the cataclysmic elevation of the host, when finally peace breaks out, when the Celebrant brings everyone together around the holy spirit, before intoning a final "go in peace". Bernstein's score brings together all the myriad elements of 20th century music: jazz, blues, rock, Broadway, expressionism, dodecaphonism, modernism with a hint of Britten, street music, fanfares, classical song mixed with rock and jazz voices and Gospel recitations: a veritable Tower of Babel which is hard even to list in a single breath. But Yannick Nézet-Séguin can be trusted to knit all these disparate elements together. Note also that this is a live concert recording, with a breathtaking spatial distribution. Putting history aside, the FBI – never one to miss out on a chance to look ridiculous – decided that Mass was pacifist, anti-establishment propaganda and begged Nixon to boycott its opening night. After all, the work had been commissioned by Jackie Kennedy for the inauguration of the Washington Kennedy Center for the Arts, when America was in the middle of its Vietnamese quagmire...© SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 25, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles de Classica
The external graphics of this recording of Bach's St. John Passion by conductor René Jacobs and the RIAS Kammerchor, with a similar set of soloists to those who appeared on Jacobs' St. Matthew Passion recording, promise various innovations, and the notes delve into more. A DVD version of the performance is included. The recording offers the usual 1749 "revised" version of the work, adding material from the 1725 version in both the CD and the download versions, and including some interesting reflections on whether one can speak at all of an authentic version of a work that evolved to the degree that this one did. There are some innovations in the placement of the musicians, moving the choir up to a point next to the orchestra, with only the "expanded" choir of the chorales in back, and this works well: the words of the choir are given striking immediacy in this way. The size of that choir, too, may be considered an innovation in these days of competing full-choir and one-voice-per-part versions; Jacobs expresses scorn toward the latter solution but makes a sure to be controversial move of his own, employing a larger choir for the chorales than for the polyphonic choral passages even in the absence of any documentary support for such a configuration. The basic idea, however, is defensible: Jacobs finds in the work a "concerto principle," going all the way back to a 1920 remark of musicologist Arnold Schering: Bach's "concerto principle" as applied to choral music added "a surprising and clearly perceptible gradation of sound." All these small details add up to something absolutely distinctive: a small but not chamber-sized performance that strains for maximum expressiveness (although not operatic "drama") at every turn. From the magnificent motet-like opening chorus onward this is a performance with extraordinary depth and power. The soloists, above all the luscious soprano Sunhae Im and the commanding tenor Werner Güra as the Evangelist (who does not emerge from the choir like the other soloists on the theory that the vocal ordeal would be too severe), do their part, and the small choir matches them in precise effect. Sample one of the more active scenes, such as the Jews' demands of Pilate (CD one, track 23), for a taste of this recording's combination of immediacy and elevation. But know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Very highly recommended.
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released September 8, 2017 | Phi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 étoiles de Classica
For the third time on the Phi label, Philippe Herreweghe gives us the opportunity to (re)discover three cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach – Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV 101, Ihr werdet weinen und heulen, BWV 103 and Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115. After two albums of cantatas written during the composer’s first year in Leipzig, the Belgian conductor and his Collegium Vocale Gent, orchestra and choir, will be performing three cantatas he composed during his second year as Kantor at St Thomas’s. The choir and vocal soloists are once again challenged to produce performances of subtlety and refined virtuosity, and the instrumentarium is as rich and colourful as those heard previously in this series. © Phi