“A Prophecy of Peace: The Choral Music of Samuel Adler” – Gloriae Dei Cantores/ Elizabeth C. Patterson, Samuel Adler/ James Jordan, SharonRose Pfeiffer, organ/ Synergy Brass Quintet/ Greg Gettel, trumpet/ Roy Campbell, trombone/ Neil Deland, horn/ Gloriae Dei Ringers – Gloriae Dei Cantores GDCD 129, 67:37 [Distr. by Paraclete Press] ****:

Before close-knit, ecstatic harmonies, shifting tonal centers, piercingly beautiful dissonances, granitic blocks of close-scored chords, and composers like Gabriel Jackson and Eric Whitacre, there was Samuel Adler. Direct, emotionally appealing (and convincing), with a strong neo-modal influence like Paul Hindemith and Walter Piston in the background, Adler emerged from a cantorial influence (his father) and a profoundly Jewish identity from his native Germany when escaping the Nazis in 1939. Spending nearly 50 years at the University of North Texas, Eastman School of Music, and the Juilliard School, he has been awarded every accolade one could expect of an outstanding and important American composer. His 90 years are surely a testament to his musical greatness.

Portrait Samuel Adler

Samuel Adler

Liturgical music was always important to him, and he reached out far beyond his own Jewish roots. His ecumenical beliefs inspired the composition of Transfiguration: An Ecumenical Mass, commissioned by the Gloriae Dei Cantores in 2000, while the other pieces here reflect traditional Hebrew biblical themes, and other sacred, secular, and biblical texts. Adler’s music is noted for its contrapuntal brilliance, and the use of rhythm as a driving force of intense communicability. One wishes that today’s choral composers would revisit the magnificence of the art of counterpoint, seemingly left behind in the quest for sheer magnificence of sound. Alder supplies both in music that is refreshingly modern in scope and profound in piety.

The sound is wonderful in this re-release of a 2004 recording, surely a fine reminder of Adler’s art, and a testimony to the human spirit. Easily recommended.

A Prophecy of Peace: The Choral Music of Samuel Adler
A Prophecy of Peace
Psalm 24
Proclaim God’s Greatness
L’chah Dodi
I Think Continually of Those
Psalm 124
Transfiguration: An Ecumenical Mass
Let Us Rejoice
Two Psalm Motets
It is to God I Shall Sing
Mah Tovu\
Psalm 146
Verses from Isaiah

—Steven Ritter