James Yowell Yelvington
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This ultra-fidelity SACD (Super Audio Compact Disk) presents five engaging pieces of religious music by a variety of mostly modern composers, performed very well and recorded digitally via DSD (Direct Stream Digital) technology, which takes 2,822,400 one-bit samples of sound per channel per second. Though there is probably endless debate as to the merits of this technique in comparison with other recording technologies, to my subjective ear the DSD sound is very detailed and excellent overall. Of course no extreme of recording fidelity will compensate for a poor performance, and in this respect we are fortunate here to have a distinguished group of performers doing their best to bring this music to life. All in all, I think they succeed to a very high degree, and bring great-sounding music to our ears. (As the disk is a hybrid SACD, it can be played on a special SACD player for highest fidelity sound or alternatively on a regular CD player for slightly lower fidelity sound.) I listened to it on an SACD player, so my remarks apply strictly to that version, though there should be very little audible difference from the CD version.
Additional recording details: This recording was made in the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 19-21, 2005, using Schoeps and B & K microphones, with Jack Renner as recording engineer.
The music is mainly modern religious music for choral forces. It is performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Choir singing without accompaniment (a capella). The six pieces were composed by Messiaen, Tavener, Vaughan Williams, Duruflé, Copland, and Tallis, all 20th century composers except for 16th century Tallis. The religious natures of the composers are quite varied: Messiaen, Duruflé, and Tallis were Roman Catholic; Tavener began as a Presbyterian, but converted to Greek Orthodoxy; Copland was Jewish as a child, but became agnostic; Vaughan Williams was agnostic. .
The works presented are:
1 - Olivier Messiaen: O sacrum convivium. A gentle, reverential reflection on the mystical significance of the Eucharist or Communion service wherein the wafer and wine to be consumed are symbolically (or actually, according to belief) transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ. The text of this motet is from the old Latin hymn for the Feast of Corpus Christi, and the first line translates as "O sacred banquet." Messiaen's unique approach to harmony and other compositional details is apparent here.
2 - John Tavener: Song for Athene. A song in memory of a recently deceased family friend (Athene Hariades) with Alleluias interspersed with five text lines from the Orthodox Funeral Service and two (#1 and #5) from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Tavener's interest in old and non-western musical styles marks this elegiac work.
3 - Ralph Vaughn Williams: Mass in G Minor. A standard form of the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass in five sections: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei (the first section in Greek, the rest in Latin). Written for 4 solists and double mixed chorus, it is a rather large-scale work lasting nearly 24 minutes. The Sanctus is titled Sanctus-Benedictus and is subdivided into 4 parts: Sanctus, Osanna I, Benedictus, and Osanna II. It is a well-written work, satisfying both artistically and spiritually.
4 - Maurice Duruflé: Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens [Four motets on Gregorian themes] sung in Latin: Ubi caritas, Tota pulchra es, Tu es Petrus, and Tantum ergo.. Like the Tavener piece, these motets look backward as to their traditional Latin texts, but are framed in more modern harmonic style.
5 - Aaron Copland: Four Motets. Texts are more or less Bible-derived, mostly from the Psalms but some from Lamentations, all presented in English: Help Us O Lord; Thou, Jehovah, Abideth Forever; Have Mercy On Us, O My Lord; and Sing Ye Praises to Our King. Though Copland regarded these short works as early exercises, written during his studies with Nadia Boulanger, they clearly demonstrate a talented and creative composer in the making, well worth the listening.
6 - Thomas Tallis: O sacrum convivium. A five-voice motet with Latin text for the Feast of Corpus Christi. This fine piece shows why Tallis was so highly regarded, both in his lifetime and on up to the present. Always linked with the church as composer and/or performer, he demonstrates his devotion in the care he takes with his works.
Musically this disk is excellent in every respect I can think of. The typography of the liner notes and back page of the case are often infuriating in their eye-squinting near illegibility, as noted by another reviewer. Telarc, please get real and offer reasonably readable notes for your fine-sounding disks!
Other than optically, I recommend this recording very highly for bringing together some very fine works of religious choral writing, performance, and recording.