American Choral Premieres = HOVHANESS: Four Motets, Op. 268; EGON COHEN: Stabat Mater; PAUL NICHOLSON: Velum templi; PAUL FRENCH: Who am I?; EASLEY BLACKWOOD: A King James Magnificat; ROBERT KREUTZ: Scapulis Suis; WILLIAM FERRIS: Lyrica Sacra; WILLIAM C. WHITE: Nunc Dimittis; ROCHBERG: Behold, My Servant – The William Ferris Chorale/Paul French – Cedille CDR 90000 109, 64:10 **** [Distr. by Allegro]:
Every release Cedille puts out is of outstanding quality; production values, from ensembles to repertory to booklet notes and package look are never anything less that superb. This is a great example of a locally-organized and locale-specific enterprise taking on global significance over time. It’s hard to find fault with any aspect of their releases, and believe me, as a longtime reviewer, I try hard.
The William Ferris Chorale was started by the man who was a composer as well as church musician whose Chorale was and is a mainstay of Chicago choral excellence for many years. Though he passed in 2000, the chorale has continued its important work under the direction of Paul French, and things have never sounded better
This release takes as its premise a series of world premieres, and there is not a dud among them. If you think you know Alan Hovhaness—and I am one that thinks he rewrote a number of his symphonies many times—think again. These Four Motets throw a light on an often overlooked aspect of his art, and will have you rethinking him as well. The other big name here, the late George Rochberg, first attracted my attention right before his tonal days started, with the production of his wonderful Third String Quartet. The composer’s conversion to a sense of utter communicability was never more demonstrable than in his anthem Behold, My Servant, a gorgeous and moving piece of work with soprano, baritone, and vocal quartet soloists.
I can’t cover each of these—there is just not enough room. But William Ferris was a fine composer himself, and his Lyrica Sacra is one of the highlights of this disc, as is Paul French’s Who am I? who continues his predecessor’s penchant for conducting and composing. Winners all, this disc will transport you. Enthusiastically recommended!
— Steven Ritter