GORDON GETTY: The Little Match Girl, A Prayer for My Daughter, Poor Peter, Joan and the Bells – Soloists / Bavarian Radio Choir, Munich Radio Orch. / Asher Fisch; Ulf Schirmer – PentaTone

GORDON GETTY: The Little Match Girl, A Prayer for My Daughter, Poor Peter, Joan and the Bells – Nikolai Schukoff (tenor), Melody Moore (sop.), Lester Lynch (bar.)  / Bavarian Radio Choir, Munich Radio Orch. / Asher Fisch; Ulf Schirmer – PentaTone multi-channel SACD PTC 5186 480, 66:59 (9/11/15)  [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

When I opened this SACD I wasn’t sure what to expect. The composer, Gordon Getty, was not known to me, and the works were also unfamiliar.

I’m happy to report this is a wonderful disc, with chorus and orchestra performing Getty’s compositions and text from works by Hans Christian Andersen, William Butler Yeats, and a Cantata with words by Getty.

Gordon Getty was the 4th child of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. He’s been involved in philanthropy, various business interests, and of course as a musician whose compositions include the opera Plump Jack, piano pieces and a collection of choral works. Aspiring to become an opera singer, Getty studied in the mid-1970s with Louise Caselotti, a mezzo soprano who had been Maria Callas’ voice teacher (1946–47). He’s just recently introduced his opera, the Canterville Ghost in Leipzig. The disc comes with a complete libretto and background on the pieces.

This SACD starts with “A prayer for my daughter” for chorus and orchestra, based on the poem by William Butler Yeats which is, according to Getty, “…one of the most admired works by one of the most admired poets of the age”. It is followed by “Poor Peter” for tenor, chorus and orchestra, with lyrics by Getty himself inspired by Poe and again Yeats.

Then follows “The little match girl”; the heart-breaking fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, put to music more or less word for word in a challenging setting for the orchestra and particularly the chorus.

The disc concludes with “Joan and the bells”, Getty’s own narrative of the trial of Joan of Arc, about which he said, “It was the genius of Shaw that inverted this safe literary tradition and brought out the spunky teenager in Joan. Jean Anouilh went farther, in The Lark, and gave her the simplicity of preadolescence.

This is one of the most dramatic and involving recordings I have heard in a long time. The orchestra, chorus and soloists are precise and appropriately dramatic. The recording is amazing in it’s emotional wallop and dynamic range. The soloists are placed across the front spread between the front speakers, while the surrounds get a sense of the hall. It’s demonstration quality and reminds me of the old thrilling Columbia recordings with Bernstein, but here the impact is greater with a high resolution product from start to finish. If you have doubts about multichannel and the extended frequency response of SACD discs, this recording will put it all those reservations to rest.

This recording by the Münchner Rundfunkorchester and the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks was conducted by Asher Fisch and Ulf Schirmer respectively. It features magnificent soloists such as tenor Nikolai Schukoff (“Poor Peter”),soprano Melody Moore (“Joan and the Bells”) and baritone Lester Lynch (“Joan and the Bells”).

The only drawback to this disc is the absolutely horrible cover art. Hide it away and enjoy the music. I’ll search out more of Getty’s music after hearing these compositions. He’s an intriguing composer with a highly interesting background. Pentagon has created one of the finest recordings I’ve heard this year. Recommended!

—Mel Martin

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