In Celebration of the Human Voice - The Essential Musical Instrument
Giving a voice to Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Grammy-nominated Los Angeles Master Chorale (LAMC), considered one of the world's leading choirs, is led by Music Director Grant Gershon. The Los Angeles Times proclaims, "Under Gershon, the Master Chorale seems to be able to master anything," The New York Times calls the choir "inspired," and The New York Observer declares it "a superb vocal ensemble." The Chorale is currently in its 47th season as a resident company of the Music Center of Los Angeles County and its 8th as the resident chorus at Disney Hall. Presenting its own concert series each season, it has performed more than 480 concerts, featuring choral music from the earliest writings to the most recent contemporary compositions. The choir has commissioned 25 and premiered 63 new works, of which 41 were world premieres, and has been awarded the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming three times - in 1995, 2003 and 2010. Additionally, the Chorale has performed in more than 280 concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at both Disney Hall and the Hollywood Bowl and has also appeared at the Ojai Festival, the Great Performers series at Lincoln Center, and at Overture Center in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as in leading venues throughout the Southland. Its discography includes three CDs under Gershon's baton, including Daniel Variations by Steve Reich, released in spring 2008 on Nonesuch Records, You Are (Variations) by Steve Reich, released in September 2005 on Nonesuch Records, and an RCM recording featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen's first choral work, Two Songs to Poems of Ann Jaderlund, and Philip Glass' Itaipu. In June 2010, Gershon conducts the choir in recording sessions at Disney Hall for his fourth CD with the choir, which will be an all-Nico Muhly album to be released by Decca later this season. LAMC previously released three CDs under Music Director Emeritus Paul Salamunovich on RCM, including the Grammy-nominated Lauridsen-Lux Aeterna. The Chorale is also featured with Gershon on the soundtracks of such major motion pictures as Charlie Wilson's War, Lady in the Water, License to Wed, and Waterworld. Serving more than 40,000 audience members of all ages annually, the Los Angeles Master Chorale also provides education outreach to approximately 6,000 children each year. In 2008, the Chorale's highly successful outreach program "Voices Within" earned the coveted Chorus America Education Outreach Award.
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Review: Itaipu is a large-scale work for chorus and orchestra set to a Guarani text. Itaipu is the world's largest dam located on the border between Paraguay and Brazil. The piece is cast in four movements: Mato Grosso, The Lake, The Dam, To the Sea. The piece is part of the composer's interest Brazil, but also in indigenous cultures of the Americas which continues to this day. Commissioned and written for the Quebec Festival 1534-1984, Three Songs for Chorus a Cappella presents three pieces set to poems by three different North American poets. The first song, There are Some Men, is by singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen (whose poetry was later the basis of an evening length song-cycle by Glass titled Book of Longing.) The second song, Quand les Hommes vivront d'Amour, by singer-songwriter/poet/artist Raymond Levesque is a wish for peace and happiness through love. The third song, Pierre de Soleil, by poet Octavio Paz is mediation on existential selflessness ("les autres qui me donnent l'existence.")
Review: Nico Muhly is one of the brightest and most promising American composers to emerge in the early 21st century. He was born in 1981 and wrote the choral pieces recorded here in his early to mid-twenties. As a child he sang in men and boys choirs, so the classics of the English choral repertoire from the Renaissance to the present had a formative impact on his musical thinking, and that deep familiarity is demonstrated in the fluency of his choral writing. These are exceptionally appealing new settings of texts that are mostly familiar -- the Mass, Magnificat, and Nunc dimittis -- as well as several more obscure texts and a secular set using Whitman. Bright Mass with Canons is one of Muhly's most frequently performed works, and rightly so. The piece shows his mastery of both contemporary choral writing and the tight canonic procedures of composers like Tallis and Taverner. It is bright in its clarity and the mood of openness and vitality that it emanates, and in the inventive sparkle of the quirky organ accompaniment. The motet Senex puerem portabat is hugely impressive, with an urgently yearning opening that builds to a wildly ecstatic climax. The remaining works are also appealing and expertly crafted, but for the most part lack the distinctiveness and focus of the mass or the motet. The text setting is always exemplary, but some of the pieces sound like the music is driven only by the text, without meaningful larger musical structures holding them coherently together. Like so many American composers who came after the ascendency of minimalism and who write in an essentially tonal idiom, Muhly grapples (but perhaps doesn't grapple forcefully enough) with the long shadows of Steve Reich and John Adams. It's too easy to hear the sonorities and figurations of Reich's The Desert Music and Adams' Klinghoffer choruses in some of these pieces. Nonetheless, Muhly's achievement is impressive and he has plenty of time to develop a distinctive individual voice. The Los Angeles Master Chorale, led by Grant Gershon and joined on one track by the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, sings passionately and with great commitment. The fresh youthfulness of their sound is an ideal match for the energy of Muhly's music. The pieces are accompanied by various forces, including organ, percussion, brass, and strings. Decca's sound is clean, clear, and warm, with excellent balance.
Review: Steve Reich recalls the approach and sound of some of his most celebrated early work - groundbreaking repertoire like The Desert Music, Tehillim,, and Music For 18 Musicians - while creating vital, spiritually stirring new music for right now. The four-movement title piece, written for voices and live instruments and performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, premiered at the Walt Disney Concert Hall to extraordinary reviews. Steve Reich recently was hailed as "America's greatest living composer." (The Village Voice), "the most original musical thinker of our time" (The New Yorker), and "among the great composers of the century" (The New York Times).
Review: The acclaimed Los Angeles Master Chorale, conducted by Grant Gershon, brings us the music of Phillip Glass and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Featured is Itaipu by Glass, an ecstatic piece framing the ancient folklore of South America's Guarani Indians against a massive hydroelectric dam at Itaipu on the Brazil/Paraguay border. "Itaipu" is divided into four parts, "Mato Grosso," "The Lake," "The Dam" and "To The Sea." Also featured is the world premiere recording of Salonen's "Two Songs to Poems of Ann Jaderlund." The composer's vision of love as described in these poems is dynamic, richly romantic and enthralling - a tour de force of the sonic capabilities of the 111-strong chorus. Cutting-edge choral music, orchestrally accompanied, stunning and magnificent.
O Magnum Mysterium
Review: Morton Lauridsen is Composer-in-Residence for the Master Chorale and Chair of the Dept. of Composition at USC. These original works are performed by the Chorale under the direction of Paul Salamunovich. Accompanied by the Sinfonia Orchestra, this recording was Grammy nominated, and has been in high demand since its release. Containing works written in the past decade as well as three world premiere recordings (seventeen tracks in all) it begins with the self-titled "Lux Aeterna," a five movement work that draws upon Latin texts, each containing references to Light. Next are the exquisite "Chansons Des Roses," set to poems of Rainier Maria Rilke. "Ave Maria" is an a cappella motet, and "Mid-Winter Songs" is a choral cycle using winter as its unifying motif. The result is ethereal, inspiring and above all, flawless.
Review: Maestro Salamunovich conducts the Master Chorale and Sinfonia Orchestra in two true masterworks of the late 20th century choral literature. Of his work "Te Deum, (Verba Domini cum verbis populi)" Minnesota based composer Dominick Argento has written that the words are, as the subtitle implies, written in a manner which associates six sections of Middle English lyrics with the six Latin texts. It was composed thus to present a sense of the learned "church style" justaposed with more musical elements found in the populace of the day. Maurice Durufle's Messe (Mass) "Cum Jublio" written in 1966 was scored for a unison choir of men's voices and organ or orchestra. While having five movements they are not usual and throughout there permeates plainchant melodies from the Gregorian Mass IX, "Cum Jubilo." Glorious!