PRISM Quartet, The Crossing/Donald Nally: The Fifth Century album review - moves through a slow-motion universe
The Fifth Century
Donald Nally; PRISM Quaratet; The Crossing; Gavin Bryars
ECM New Series
Gavin Bryars’s The Fifth Century is a seven-movement, 42-minute setting for choir and saxophone quartet of words from the last section of 17th-century poet and theologian Thomas Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations.
It’s a work that shapes itself slowly, as if it had all the time in the world — the eternity and infinity of the texts? — to move through a slow-motion universe where sounds linger and the present tends to blur before the past has faded. The musical style also blends past and present.
The slightly haunted quality is reinforced by the often creamy smoothness of the saxophones, though the lines of both instruments and voices do at times stretch into extended high ecstasy. Two Love Songs, Petrarch settings for female voices, have a chaste intensity.