“Eternal Reflections” – ROBERT PATERSON: Eternal Reflections; Choral Suite from A New Eaarth; Lux Aeterna; The Essence of Gravity; Snow Day; Did You Hear?; Life is But a Dream; A Dream Within a Dream – Musica Sacra/ Kent Tritle – American Modern Recordings AMR1040, 75:10 ****:

Robert Paterson’s previous release in these pages for solo voice was something of an eye-opener for me in that I had not heard of this composer before. But he has garnered quite a few accolades, and his music, while quite tonal and posing no challenges to conservative ears, is different in a few very important and salient ways. Whereas so many composers for the voice today are immersed in the close-harmony mysticism that found its origins in Arvo Part, and which is an important and beauteous “school” that has spawned some exceptionally fine work dedicated to the choral idiom, Paterson seems to eschew such esoteric mannerisms and cosmic reflections. Indeed, his music is nothing that seeks to lure one into the ethereal realms of meditation and ponderings, but instead pulls everyday concerns and occurrences directly onto the glorious, fully illumined LED big screen for all to observe. I really can’t remember the last time I heard music that was so insistently demanding of my attention, putting forth arguments that seem so right and obviously correct as if stated by an overbearing lunch partner whose type-A magnificence draws all into the circle of trust, domineering and gripping.

Upon reflection I am not as sure that Paterson gets the emotive content on some his chosen texts. For example, a poem that I am long familiar with, Poe’s A Dream Within a Dream, feels incongruously out of place with the type of fast forward, in-your-face directness that Paterson assigns to it; this really is one poem that does delve into the mystical reflections of a man experiencing loss, and might benefit from a different type of approach despite the creative and forcefully attractive music that Paterson provides. On the other hand ”A Song on the End of the World” (Czeslaw Milosz), the first part of Eternal Reflections captures the colorful language based in its grounded and indeed very earthy verbal tonality with music that is at once full of character and primary-color oriented so that we simply do not miss the conversation even if the understanding might take a little longer to apprehend. I find this generally true of all Paterson’s art that I have heard thus far; he doesn’t give you the choice to ignore him. What he says is done with an uncanny knack for immediate communicability, and his expressive artistry in portraying his interpretation of the texts at hand is vivid and memorable.

Musica Sacra is a longtime favorite of mine, now around since about 1964, and they are in fine form here. Definitely worth getting to know this composer, with a package given in radiant sound replete with first class production values.

—Steven Ritter