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Choral

C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective Presents “Water Music”

June 22, 2018

One special feature of this concert was also a mark of C4’s maturity and clout as a musical organization with a well-deserved reputation for excellence: they sponsor the IGNITE commissioning competition. In the 2017-2018 season, C4 received over 300 submissions; from these, 20 finalists were chosen, and from these, three winners were chosen. C4 member Martha Sullivan wrote about the selection process in the typically informative program notes. “Tonight, after careful rehearsal, we share the winners … They showed us works they had already created, and we responded by asking each composer to create something new, something that would be born here and now, with C4 and you are privileged to witness this birth.” [more]

C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective presents New Music with NY Composers Circle

May 31, 2018

The nine pieces on this program differed tremendously from each other in style, tone and effect. However, two important qualities unified all the performances. First, the composers all caused their music to emerge from their chosen texts: they did not impose sound arbitrarily unto the words. The organic coherence of word and musical sound resulted from both the composers’ innate gifts and their consummate skill. Competent choral composition is difficult; really successful choral compositions are very rare. Second, the music was superbly performed: not merely does C4 sing well, but because the C4 singers are all themselves composers, they inhabit each work’s intentions with particularly keen intelligence. [more]

The National Chorale: Angela Rice’s “Thy Will Be Done”

April 9, 2018

"Thy Will Be Done" retains many of the core features of an oratorio, especially in its use of alternating solo arias and choruses to develop the basic story and in its development of choral music to reflect plot, universal human response, prayer and praise. In addition, as a twenty-first century American piece, "Thy Will Be Done" benefits from some vocal strategies imported from operetta and musicals. Ultimately, however, no matter what musical genre the work derives its core ancestry from, its most important feature is its generous accessibility. [more]

C4: Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Devotion

April 7, 2018

The evening’s works were loosely organized around the theme of devotion, a big conceptual basket into which works about reverence, affection, awe and loves of all sorts could deftly and effectively be fit. Although the concert’s texts ranged from ancient to contemporary, from sacred to profane, from unknown to known authorship, the considered objects of affection included peace, nature, mystery, creativity, divinity – all love’s siblings – and love itself. [more]

Voices of Ascension: Tracing the Path of Zurbarán’s “Jacob and His Twelve Sons”

March 29, 2018

Before the concert, audience members were invited to a special showing of the Zurbarán exhibit at the Frick; the museum and the site of the concert – Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church – are just four blocks apart. The music of the concert was organized around the successful and felicitous conceit of a journey: the concert, according to Keene’s program notes, “follows the progress of the Zurbarán paintings themselves from their creation into the hands of the Bishop of Durham.” According to the ‘geography’ of the program, “the trail starts in Seville, home not only to the artist but to three of the finest composers of Spain’s Golden Age,” then moves to Lima, Peru with the music of Roque Ceruti  – because of guesses that Zurbaran’s paintings were “intended for the New World” – and then concludes with the arrival of the paintings in England. Excerpts from George Frederick Handel’s oratorio, "Joseph and His Brethren," whose manuscript is maintained in the Durham Cathedral archives, completed the journey: Jacob and his painted sons had arrived in their permanent – and, with Handel, musical – home. [more]

Voices of Ascension: Claudio Monteverdi’s “Vespers of 1610”

March 5, 2018

Of the twelve soloists, several were outstanding. Tenor Scott Mello’s "Nigra Sum" was a virtuosic, romantically charged reveling in sensuality. The soprano duet, "Pulchra Es," with Molly Quinn and Melanie Russell, though it began a little shakily, finished well: as the two women’s voices came together in extremely difficult passages, the modernity of Monteverdi’s “secunda prattica,” or “newer style,” shone. [more]

Lorelei Ensemble: Five Boroughs Music Festival 2017-2018 Season

February 19, 2018

Equally exciting is Lorelei’s celebration of each of the ensemble’s individual voices. Peter Gilbert’s "Tsukimi (Moon Viewing)," commissioned by Lorelei and premiered in 2013, offers each of the nine singers a solo moment within the context of a complex choral work: a subtle Heian dynasty text celebrating anthropological and mythological reverence for the moon provides a splendid vehicle for the examination of each woman’s unique voice and gifts. [more]

Voices of Ascension: Poulenc’s “Gloria” & Honegger’s “King David”

February 4, 2018

Presiding over the entire piece and working in close artistic collaboration with Keene was actor F. Murray Abraham; he read the King James Bible based narrative from Ascension’s commandingly high pulpit. He was magisterially marvelous: whether speaking the omniscient ancient story-tellers’ words or God’s own, Abraham contributed as much as Keene did to the movement, shape and coherence of the "King David" presentation. [more]

The Tallis Scholars: Heinrich Isaac at 500

December 28, 2017

The Tallis Scholars’ most recent turn in the Columbia University Miller Theatre Early Music Series was billed as “Heinrich Isaac at 500.” This concert title wasn’t quite accurate: the evening was a more like a bouquet of music by Isaac (c.1450-1517) and three contemporaries, Josquin des Prez (c. 1450-1521), Nicolas Gombert (c. 1495-1560) and John Browne (1453-c. 1500). – What a fabulous bouquet it was! [more]

C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Love and Other Stories

December 1, 2017

Like most C4 concerts, this one had a theme: it was an evening of “songs about love – both for and against.” Songs’ ideas and purposes mirrored, echoed, anticipated and challenged each other. The organization of this program, however, was unusual. Small groups of songs from a single piece – internationally acclaimed Bernard Rands’ 1991 "Canti d’Amor," settings of James Joyce poems – framed both the concert as a whole and both of its two parts: Rands’ Joyce songs opened the concert, closed the first half, opened the second half and then closed the concert. [more]

American Classical Orchestra and Chorus: Cherubini, Beethoven and Mozart

November 24, 2017

The two soprano soloists were marvelous. Hélène Brunet combines supple lyricism with technical elegance. Clara Rottsolk’s voice is at once silvery and earthy, delicate and powerful. In their individual arias, both women committed to highly ornamented interpretations; both were able to make ornament feel like a spontaneous, unplanned and experimental development of ideas. In his conducting, Crawford gives his best singers – such as Brunet and Rottsolk – considerable room to make the music their own without ever losing coherence or the appropriate tempo. When singing together, as in “Domine Deus, Rex caelestis,” these sopranos’ voices were beautifully matched. [more]

Tym Moss: (A) Live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!!

October 10, 2017

Possessed of a soaring tenor baritone voice that forcefully hits every note, an immensely likeable persona and boundless energy as he dances with brio, Moss commands the stage for 70 minutes. Periodically overcome with emotion, he gracefully collects himself and moves on. It’s a moving display of therapeutic showmanship. [more]

C4, The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Electric – Choral Works with electrified ensemble

June 25, 2017

C4’s last concert of the season was a typical C4 concert. The concert had one intermission; in both halves of the concert, there were one or two pieces that were new to C4 and one or two that they’d performed before. In this concert, there were also three premieres. Some pieces were a cappella; some were accompanied by a somewhat unexpected set of instruments, in this case, electronic … hence this concert’s name, “Electric: Choral works with electrified ensemble.” Almost all of the composers featured were either current or former C4 members; singers conducted each others’ works. Individual singers moved easily between solo parts and “just” being a section member. The extensive program notes were, as always, extremely useful. [more]

The New York Virtuoso Singers: Morton Gould/ASCAP Young Composer Award Recipients

May 28, 2017

From the beginning, one core component of Rosenbaum’s mission has been the cultivation of a contemporary American repertoire and the regular commission of new works. Rosenbaum is, in fact, an enthusiastic champion of young composers. This May concert, consisting of ten new works, reflected this focus … and was a wonderful celebration of young talent and achievement. [more]

St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys: Glory Be to Thee O Lord: Songs of Faith, Hope and Love

May 20, 2017

But the concert didn’t have the satisfaction of a big blockbuster – such as Haydn’s Creation, with which the season began – or of two or three masterworks. Music of the Anglican tradition is the bone and blood of St. Thomas’ work: it’s the music in which the choir excels. The formal musical curriculum in which St. Thomas students are immersed serves them well in any musical endeavor or style, but the Anglican vocabulary is the one these young musicians are most comfortable with. In this particular concert, the music of non-Anglican-tradition composers was well presented, demonstrating the skills of the singers, both young and old, but wasn’t thrilling. [more]

Vespers of 1610 (Handel + Haydn Society Orchestra and Chorus)

April 17, 2017

"Vespers of 1610" is a big and oddly sprawling work. It makes no liturgical sense, and, in terms of texts, has little programmatic unity beyond a consistent Marian devotion. But it is a coherent whole of musical and spiritual experience. It gives the impression of limitlessness, as though there were no end to what Monteverdi could have kept on telling us, precisely because the sacredness and meaning of God’s sacred words are infinite. [more]

World Music Institute: Salif Keita

April 9, 2017

Over the course of Salif Keita’s recent appearance at The Town Hall there was a story whose shape reflected both Keita’s identity and his music. At 7:00 p.m., there was a question-and-answer session with Keita, musician and writer Banning Eyre of www.afropop.org, and translator Isabelle Dupuis. By the end of the evening, audience and performers were inseparably merged; singing and dancing had become one, and Keita had made us all his own. Far from needing any explanation or translation, the music of Salif Keita is entirely universal. [more]

New York Polyphony: Palestrina’s “Marcellus Mass”

February 4, 2017

The second work of the evening was the world premiere of Ivan Moody’s Vespers Sequence. In careful, clear program notes, Moody described his goals in his compositions in general and in this new Vespers Sequence in particular: he seeks to “bring the concepts and principles underlying Orthodox spirituality … into dialogue with modernity” … in the “creation of a specifically Orthodox para-liturgical repertoire that brings together liturgy and concert.” Moody collaborated closely with New York Polyphony in conceiving and then finalizing this work; although the sacred texts and many of the originating aesthetic impulses of the work are ancient, the overall feel, in this premiere performance, was of something vital and contemporary. [more]

The Tallis Scholars: “A Renaissance Christmas”

December 27, 2016

It was a Tallis-perfect performance. Palestrina has long been one of the most sure-fire dazzling jewels in the Tallis Scholars' treasury. In writing sacred music, Palestrina made his particular kind of beauty – elegance, intellect, decorous sensuality – a kind of theology of mediation, a meeting place for the human and the divine. The Tallis precision of diction and tone and their ability to reveal every rhythmic and melodic nuance in the music they sing make Palestrina marvelous. The bright acoustic features of St. Mary the Virgin provide a wash of light on the singing. [more]

American Classical Orchestra: Johann Sebastian Bach

December 15, 2016

The consistency – the from-the-very-beginning wholeness – of Bach's genius was clear in this chronological arrangement. The kinds of writing techniques and subjects – the sequences and suspensions, chromaticisms and counterpoint intricacies – that Bach transformed from craft common to hundreds of composers to art unique to only a few became, over the years, Bach's vehicles for examinations of all aspects of being human. In this single program, Crawford's choice of music from almost all major liturgical seasons enabled his singers to present grief and joy, despair and hope, prayer and praise. And this they did marvelously. [more]

The Dessoff Choirs: We Remember

November 15, 2016

Performed the evening before the American election, the theme and purpose of the concert – remembrance of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., two “outstanding stewards of humanity,” in Merriweather's words, whose lives were cut short by violence – embodied for musicians and audience alike art's core purposes. Art locates, grounds and inspires us; it gives us vocabularies for understanding ourselves. In the case of the works on this program, the American music of remembrance, contained in pieces by Steven Stucky and David Hurd, reminds us that moral and political conscience transcends individual lives and is strong within us all, even when our heroes are slain; and Mozart's "Requiem" calls up the universality of hope for salvation and pleadings for peace. [more]

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men & Boys: Haydn’s The Creation

November 14, 2016

From the very first opening bars of the "Chaos" overture, Hyde set the tone for the evening: conducting with gentlemanly authoritativeness, Hyde led the Orchestra of St. Luke's – who were all in exceptionally fine form – in a performance of expansive energy and optimism. Theologically, God's working material for his creation may have been unfathomably chaotic and formless, but in this particular artistic account of creation, Haydn's description of chaos is so informed by elegance, wit and bravura that the primordial chaos seems to have been imbued with goodness. [more]

C4: Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Organic – New Works for Choir and Organ

June 28, 2016

C4 has always been driven by certain core values and goals; the particular repertoire “cornerstones” being emphasized this season, as indicated in the concert's program notes, were important but infrequently performed works, beauty, and the nurturing of new composers' voices. This concert contained all these features in both recent works and four premieres. [more]

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys with Concert Royal: Music of Bach and Handel

May 31, 2016

Such feast days deserve magnificent music; Bach and Handel created it. And the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, the first rate period-instruments Concert Royal, and five marvelous soloists gave splendid performances of two Bach cantatas and a Handel psalm-setting that did both the feast days and the music proud. The first-rate concert was a particularly fine accomplishment for St. Thomas Church: rocked by the sudden death last summer of John Scott, choral director and organist, the school and the church had to both manage a top-knotch concert season without their director and perform the “director-less” concerts as suitable memorials to Scott. [more]

The Cecilia Chorus of New York with Orchestra: Ludwig van Beethoven, Missa Solemnis, Op. 123

May 25, 2016

Price, Bottoms, Richardson and Courville are all strong, clear singers; they were well matched in this performance, alert to each other's pacing and responsive to each other's sensibilities. Although any one of the four could have grabbed a center spotlight, they were unified – probably by a combination of their own individual understandings of Beethoven's purposes and by Shapiro's direction – in graceful collaborative cohesion in their singing. [more]

The Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge

April 20, 2016

Since the 1670’s, the Choir has consisted of voices ranging from bass to treble, all students at St. John's College or the College School. There are currently six basses, five tenors, four counter-tenors and seventeen trebles; of the trebles – two or three of whom are no bigger than buttons – there currently appear to be thirteen families represented. In some senses, the trebles are the stars of the show: that such young boys should demonstrate such consistently high levels of both innate musicianship and disciplined formal training is remarkable. The sweetness of tone inherent to boys' soprano voices is not like anything else: its combined ethereality of the moment and promise of future sturdiness make it a perfect instrument for the invocation of angels, heavenly beauty and divine wisdom. [more]

The Saint Thomas Church Choir of Men and Boys: Seven Last Words from the Cross

March 29, 2016

The last piece of the concert was James MacMillan's substantive and moving 1994 "Seven Last Words from the Cross," a 35 minute piece of seven different movements, varying in length from nine to one-and-a-half minutes each, for choir and orchestra. As the piece progresses through the final Passion drama, from Jesus' plea for forgiveness for his executioners to his exhausted last breath, MacMillan explores aspects of prayer and petition, anguish and fear – Jesus' and humanity's – in music that bears close allegiance to Romantic liturgies and Requiems. Here, the Choir and the orchestra were elegant, boys and men singing with superb control, lush expressivity … and their usual clear diction. [more]

C4: Unusual – Music of the strange, the absurd, and the surreal

March 24, 2016

For the winter concert of their eleventh season, the twenty-three member C4: The Choral Composer Conductor Collective – elected to honor “Unusual - music of the strange, the absurd, the surreal.” The evening included three premieres, all by current C4 composers, among the eight pieces performed. Some of the works were splendid and some weren't, but all were presented with C4's characteristic superb musicianship and artistic integrity as well as their willingness to take risks. [more]

The Tallis Scholars: “Christmas Across Centuries”

December 14, 2015

The program itself was a masterpiece of artistic and theological integrity. Pieces by three composers – contemporary Estonian Arvo Part (b.1935), and Renaissance Englishmen John Sheppard (c.1515-1558) and Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585) – carried the full chronological account of the earthly life of the Word made Flesh, from conception in the Virgin's womb to emergence as the salvation-bearing Lamb of God. The order of the program essentially replicated the Nicene Creed, each piece providing an illumination of a particular narrative or liturgical moment. [more]

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys with Orchestra of St. Luke’s: Mozart’s Requiem & Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis

November 18, 2015

Nethsingha's reading of Mozart's Requiem was richly nuanced and widely expressive, and the success of his reading was established within the first three movements. The opening Requiem was graceful, nearly pensive: the treble voices were sweet and pure, and soprano Katharine Dain's brief opening solo was at once eloquent and ethereal. The swift Kyrie, with its tight runs, quarter and sixteenth notes, was a completely clear, crisp introit, an urgent summons of the clergy to their sacraments. The ensuing Dies Irae – one particularly pure exemplar of Mozart's genius – made beauty and terror inseparable. [more]

American Classical Orchestra and Chorus: Georg Philipp Telemann’s “Day of Judgment”

October 20, 2015

The American Classical Orchestra and Chorus' recent performance of Georg Philipp Telemann's "Der Tag des Gerichts" (Day of Judgment) realized the very best of their original mission of “preserving and performing the repertoire of 17th to 19th century composers, playing the works on original or reproduced period instruments.” Presented in the generously resonant space of the Church of Saint Ignatius of Antioch on West 87th Street, Telemann's brilliant piece was at once accessible and intellectually elegant. [more]
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