Messages to Myself – New Music for Chorus A Cappella [TrackList follows] – Musica Sacra/ Kent Tritle – MSR Classics MS 1411, 78:25 [Distr. by Albany] *****:
My jaw almost hit the floor when I read that Musica Sacra, one of the finest and most opulent of all vocal ensembles in the United States, had not issued a recording in over 20 years! Surely this was a mistake? But after doing some double checking, I found out that this is indeed the case, and what a travesty it is! Their Christmas album on DGG is one of the all-time greats, and everything I have heard—though they were only recorded on commercial labels three or four times—has not been anything less than golden. MSR lists this as “Volume 1”, so we shall see what happens.
There is not a bad work on this disc—not one. All of them are terrific examples of the current state of choral a capella art, and it is a good one, trust me. One of the youngest, Michael Gilbertson, presents us with a sensuous and sensational piece after John Dowland that will stoke the fires of any choral enthusiast. Likewise are Christina Whitten Thomas and her Choral de bêtes a piece of extraordinary subtlety and beauties. Christopher Theofanidis’s unique yet quite familiar sounds are all present and identifiable in his Messages to Myself, and the exquisite and melodious nature of Elliot Levine’s I Thank You God are moving and will leave you teary-eyed.
The choir, as usual, is incandescent. I can’t think of an American ensemble that is any better at balance, variation in tone coloring, warmth, or technical acumen than this bunch. Welcome back then, and let’s hope that someone has the prescience to sign these folks up to a long term string of recordings. This country should be proud to sport such an ensemble, and conductor Kent Tritle has obviously not let standards wane one little bit.
MICHAEL GILBERTSON: Three Madrigals after Dowland (2008/2011)
Weep You No More
Burst Forth, My Tears
Come, Heavy Sleep
ZACHARY PATTEN: Magnificat, Amen (2010)
CHRISTINA WHITTEN THOMAS: Choral de bêtes (2004/2006)
Prière du Lion
Prière de l’Agneau
Prière de la Baleine
Prière de la Gazelle
DANIEL BREWBAKER: Mother, Father (2011)
If there are any heavens
My father moved through the dooms of love
BEHZAD RANJBARAN: We are one (2008)
CHRISTOPHER THEOFANIDIS: Messages to Myself (2007)
ROBERT CONVERY: The Lamb (1988)
AARON JAY KERNIS: Effortlessly, Love Flows (1999)
ELLIOT Z. LEVINE: I thank you God