CD Review: Compassion – Nigel Westlake/Lior/Sydney Symphony Orchestra


 Compassion/Nigel Westlake/Lior

Sydney Symphony Orchestra

ABC Classics 481 0678 

First published in March 2014, this review is being re-published in the light of the nomination of  ‘Compassion’ by Nigel Westlake and Lior, for Orchestral Work of the Year in the APRA AMCOS Australian Music Centre Art Music Awards for 2014.

In October 2013, composer Nigel Westlake was awarded the 2013 Paul Lowin Orchestral  Prize for his moving Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli (2010) for symphony orchestra, chorus and male treble solo.

The previous month the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer, along with vocalist Lior made a live recording of Westlake’s Compassion-Symphony of Song, described as a ‘song cycle for voice and orchestra by Lior and Nigel Westlake based on a collection of ancient Hebrew and Arabic texts’. Westlake is a multi-award winning Australian composer; Lior is a Melbourne based Israeli-Australian gold record selling Indie singer-songwriter.

The result is a sensitive collection of 7 songs themed around the concept of compassion and related humanitarian qualities. The songs combine eastern elements of harmony, dissonance, microtones and complex rhythms with a symphonic aesthetic beautifully coloured by the orchestra with profound effect.

In the opening song, Sim Shalom (Grant Peace), the orchestra awakens the soul  and has a rousing introduction before settling to a gentle sob as Lior’s extraordinary three octave voices soars into counter-tenor range for the introductory and closing chants. The second song Eize Hu Chacham?(Who is Wise) evokes the pulsating rhythms and music of the Indian sub-continent with a strong Karnatic flavour. La Yu’ minu ( Until You Love Your Brother), Inna Rifqa (The Beauty Within) and Ma Wadani Ahadun (Until the End of Time) have a lyrical beauty touched by the simplicity of folk -like melodies before the more dramatic Al Takshu L’vavchem (Don’t Harden Your Hearts) and the final climactic Avinu Malkeinu (Hymn of Compassion).

The CD insert contains the text in original languages and quotes its sources along with an English translation of the text, without which the songs would have little meaning for the listener.  There are also insights from Nigel Westlake and Lior outlining their inspirations for this multi -faith anthology of songs and the process by which the project came to be.

Inspirational music of great calm and beauty.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

Click here for more information about the 2014 Art Music Awards.





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