ERIC WHITACRE: Choral Works, Volume 1 (A Cappella, 1991-2001) – BYU Singers/ Ronald Staheli – BYU Records YCD0213EWI, 72:32 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
TrackList:1. Water Night  Three Songs of Faith: 2. I Will Wade Out  3. Hope, Faith, Life, Love  4. I Thank You God For Most This Amazing Day  5. Cloudburst  6. Sleep  Three Flower Songs: 7. I Hide Myself  8. With a Lily in Your Hand  9. Go, Lovely Rose  10. When David Heard  11. Lux Aurumque  12. Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine 
ERIC WHITACRE: Choral Works, Volume 2 – BYU Singers/ Ronald Staheli/ BYU Concert Choir/ Rosalind Hall/ BYU Women’s Chorus/ David M. Thomas – BYU Records YCD0314EW2, 42:14 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
TrackList:1. Little birds [ 2001 ] 2. A boy and a girl [ 2004 ] 3. This marriage [ 2005 ] 4. Her sacred spirit soars [ 2005 ] Five Hebrew love songs: 5. Temuná (a picture) 6. Kalá kallá (light bride) 7. Lárov (mostly) 8. Eyze shéleg! (what snow!) 9. Rakút (tenderness) 10. She weeps over rahoon  11. Little tree [ 1997 ] Animal crackers, vol. 1: 12. The panther 13. The cow 14. The firefly
Eric Whitacre has a long-standing relationship with the singers and teachers at Brigham Young University. As far back as 1996 Whitacre requested that these albums be recorded, with him present at the recording sessions, which certainly gives a sense of authenticity to them, aside from his own later composer-conducted readings. Of course he was just getting started then, and this six-year series, finally released in 2002, was a tremendous success worldwide, coupled with the BYU commitment to the composer in their travels and concerts.
So big was the boom that a second recording, this time involving two other of the school’s ensembles as well, was inevitable, and proved equally popular when it hit the streets in 2008. Evidently those issues were both analog recordings, strange as that may seem now, and have just been re-released in a new digital remastering in two separate volumes.
The sound is really smooth, clear, deep, and exceptionally resonant, while the performances are second to none in spirit and technical finesse. Whitacre doesn’t always write music that is especially tough to perform, but a lot of times he does, and his tight-knit, close harmonies need astute and well-focused ears to manage the difficulties in concurrent parallel seconds and thirds, with the ever present spicy tri-tone livening things up as well in a completely tonal idiom that Whitacre has made his signature style—and it is gorgeous, gripping the musical soul in a way that few recent choral composers have—yes, even those—yet never pandering or dumbing down his audience. To top it all off, these are generally large ensembles, and the effect is thrilling. If you like Whitacre, you can’t bypass these. If you don’t know him, this is a great way to make his acquaintance!