June 25, 2010

Latvian Radio Choir - Strauss a cappella

Richard Strauss, though better known as a composer of operas and tone poems, wrote significantly in other genres as well. One of those mediums that fascinated him throughout his entire life was the a cappella choral work. The earliest pieces recorded here—the Zwei Gesänge - come from 1897, the year of Ein Heldenleben; the latest piece—Traumlicht, the second of the Drei Männerchöre - from 1935–36, those years in which Strauss was occupied with the operas Friedenstag and Daphne. The most extensive work here, and perhaps the most difficult to perform, is the Deutsche Motette. Written in 1913, between his work on the operas Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten, it is a one-movement tone poem for voices. There are moments of incredible difficulty, requiring the basses to perform notes more than two octaves below middle C for passages at a time. The sopranos, on the other hand, are asked to sing passages requiring high Dbs, more than two octaves above middle C. The singers here are up to the challenge. This is no small feat for a piece that contains at its highest number 23 individual parts! The earlier Zwei Gesänge are also given very fine performances. The ensemble work here is much better in terms of blend. In the beginning of Der Abend (the first of the two Gesänge) the singers are very good at overlapping and matching, creating a seamless wall of sound as they transfer from one section to the next. Each entry proceeds smoothly, through the odd chromatic wandering, until the very end when the ensemble creates an almost organ-like sonority. The two remaining pieces are equally thrilling and well done. 2326 CD 16.95

Posted by acapnews at 9:33 PM

June 11, 2010

Elora Festival Singers - Eric Whitacre Choral Music

Eric Whitacre's dedication to the beauty of sound, paired with exquisite texts, results in a poetic combination that creates a unique sonic experience. These works are existential choral moments, beautifully crafted, and harmonised to express a compressed moment in time. Such sublime sonorities transcend descriptions such as 'warm', 'glistening' or 'shimmering', although these features of his choral works do suggest affinities with the sound worlds of Arvo Pärt or John Tavener, for instance. However, Whitacre's fluid lines and blossoming harmonies give his music its own highly personal and irresistible magic. 2319 CD 9.95

Posted by acapnews at 12:10 AM

June 10, 2010

Volti - Turn The Page

Volti, San Francisco's 20-voice professional chamber choir, has achieved national recognition as pioneers in new vocal music: they are the first and only chorus to have won ASCAP/Chorus America's Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music Award six times. This disc shows what the buzz is all about, with works by eight contemporary American composers, five of them commissioned and premiered by Volti, under its founder and artistic director Robert Geary. Opening the disc is the first recording of all four movements of Aaron Jay Kernis' stunning and hypnotic Ecstatic Meditations, named by the National Endowment for the Arts as an American Masterpiece of Choral Music. Also featured is the first recording of a major new work by Volti's resident composer Mark Winges, Open the Book of What Happened (2005). Other never-before-recorded Volti commissions include Kurt Rohde's Endless, a six-part setting of luminous, elliptical poetry by Jakob Stein (2007); Gabriela Lena Frank's startling, rhythmic Ccollanan Maria!, a multicultural mix of traditional Catholic imagery with ancient Incan ritual (2004); two of Stacy Garrop's Sonnets of Beauty and Music, part of her project to set 23 sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay (2006); and Eric Moe's O the Flesh is Hot but the Heart is Cold (2005) - about which all we can say is that any piece of music based on a poem titled "Baked Alaska: a Theory of" just begs to be tasted 2320 CD 16.95

Posted by acapnews at 12:00 AM

June 9, 2010

Seattle Children's Chorus - Celebrate!

In 1989 Kris Mason and a small, eager group of about 30 young singers from a neighborhood church became a choir and birthed what is now The Seattle Childrens Chorus. What was 30 is now 200 voices strong, and includes four graded levels and two rehearsal locations, making the dream a reality for young musicians all over western Washington. "Celebrate!" is a generous, "best-of"  collection of 19 songs, from the group's 2009 20th Anniversary season. Some of our many favorites include Rene Clausen's "All That Hath Life and Breath," David Childs' "Weep No More," David L. Brunner's "Yo Le Canto Todo El Dia," "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me" (written for the SCC's20th Anniversary), Franz Schubert's "Die Forelle, Op 32 (The Trout)," the joyous live cuts "Mairi's Wedding," "Who Can Sail" and Mozart's "The Alphabet," Z. Randall Stroope's "Conversion of Saul," Daniel Gawthrop's "Sing Me to Heaven," the Moses Hogan-arranged spiritual "Elijah Rock, the haunting "Loch Lomond," and a pair by Stephen Paulus, "Pilgrim's Hymn" and "Help Us This Day." There are no weak cuts here, we are simply seeing different facets of the shining diamond that is the Seattle Childrens Chorus. Richly harmonic, mostly accompanied gems from one of the USA's finest, veteran Children's choruses. Settle back and enjoy this beautiful music from Arioso, Brio, Intermezzo, and Camarata, plus three cuts by the massed ensemble, joined by SCC Alumni! 2312 CD 15.95

Posted by acapnews at 12:00 AM

June 3, 2010

Stile Antico - Media Vita

Less well-known than Thomas Tallis, Sheppard's fame has spread slowly, because his compositions only made it to the twentieth century in manuscript form and many of them are incomplete. What survives bears all the hallmarks of greatness. This recording provides ample evidence of his bold, rich and individual harmony, as well as an inspired knack for compositional passion, while still adhering to Archbishop Cranmer's protestant tastes for concise word setting. The performance captured here is at the same lofty standard that Stile Antico's earlier recordings attained - almost perfect. This group engages the listener like no other, with the purpose of soloists, the tonal evenness of an ensemble, and with a clarity that is ground-breaking. 2323 CD 18.95

Posted by acapnews at 12:00 AM