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American Classics - Wheeler: The Construction Of Boston

Release Date: 03/25/2008 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8669018   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Scott Wheeler
Performer:  William HiteSharla NafzigerMarcus DeloachKrista River,   ... 
Conductor:  Donald Teeters
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Cecilia ChorusBoston Cecilia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WHEELER The Construction of Boston Donald Teeters, cond; William Hite ( The Opera/Jean Tinguely ); Charles Blandy ( Henry/Beacon Hill/Noon ); Marcus DeLoach ( Sam/The Storm ); Krista River ( The Spirit of Boston/Narrator ); Christòpheren Nomura ( Robert Rauschenberg ); Elizabeth Anker ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Dawn/Black Bay ); Christine Swistro ( Moonlight ); Sharla Nafziger ( Niki de St. Phalle ); Boston Cecilia O & Ch NAXOS 8.669018 (59:07)

This is a performance of what the composer Scott Wheeler believes to be the final version of his work The Construction of Boston . It is a sort of opera/masque/dramatic cantata. The text of the work is based on was written by the poet Kenneth Koch in 1962 (Koch referred to Wheeler’s piece as “a postmodern baroque opera”). Wheeler’s first setting was premiered in 1989 in a concert performance before being staged in a reduced format in 1990 (the Prologue was added for this staging). The first full staging was in February 2002, and it is this that represents the final version of the piece.

Wheeler was a student of Virgil Thomson, and there is an aesthetic overlap between Boston and Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts (which is quoted) and The Mother of Us All . Wheeler also is open about the variety of the musical means he utilizes, from references to Handelian counterpoint (entrance of Rauschenberg) to Gregorian chant and Gilbert and Sullivan. The piece addresses the problems that the construction of a city poses, especially in relation to the nature it replaces.

The Overture includes a diffuse passage towards its end that seems to ask for resolution, or at least an underpinning by the dynamic rhythms that periodically pepper the earlier stages of the music. There is wit in the libretto (the character called The Opera states that “operas don’t usually do this, but it seemed a good idea”) that sits side-by-side with the more serious issues raised.

Two men, chatting, speculate on the origins of Boston. All goes dark, for they have caused The Spirit of Boston to be raised, and must see the city’s origins, telescoped into less than an hour. William Hite is a confident tenor lead, whether delivering the ruminations of the Prologue or the more lyric lines (“Bay, bay, you’re lucky,” track 16, is a good case in point). Henry and Sam (taken by tenor Charles Blandy and baritone Marcus DeLoach, respectively) are evenly matched and eloquent. Krista River has a strong, almost contralto-like low register; Sharla Nafziger sings the marvelously named Niki de St. Phalle, the bringer of beauty. And it is, indeed, the passages prefacing her entry and at that entrance itself, that Wheeler’s writing actually becomes identifiably beautiful (the silvery orchestration of track 20, “What this town needs is beauty,” prepares us for Niki’s “I bring beauty and detail”).

Diction throughout is exemplary from all concerned, including from the excellent chorus (for example the “Primeval Pastorale” and, later, at the brief chorus “She’ll shoot up the city”). Christòpheren Nomura, as the “Populator” Rauschenberg, produces a lovely, rounded tone.

Overall this is, in keeping with the spirit of the score, a most commendable ensemble effort. Documentation, however, is scant, with a brief history of the opera’s genesis from the composer comprising the sum total of the information. There is no synopsis, and the libretto has to be accessed online, either via Naxos (www.naxos.com/libretti/669018.htm) or via the Boston Cecilia’s site (http://www.bostoncecilia.org/prognotes/wheeler-construction.html).

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

The Construction of Boston by Scott Wheeler
Performer:  William Hite (Tenor), Sharla Nafziger (Soprano), Marcus Deloach (Baritone),
Krista River (Mezzo Soprano), Charles Blandy (Tenor), Elizabeth Anker (Alto),
Christopheren Nomura (Baritone)
Conductor:  Donald Teeters
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Cecilia Chorus,  Boston Cecilia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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