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The Heart's Reflection: Music Of Daniel Elder

Elder / Westminster Choir / Miller / Hudson
Release Date: 10/29/2013 
Label:  Westminster Choir College   Catalog #: 1310   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Daniel Elder
Performer:  Mark FosterJohn HudsonJeffrey D. Grubbs
Conductor:  Joe Miller
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Even if you’re a choral music fan you may not be familiar with composer Daniel Elder. But you definitely should be. On evidence of this first-rate recording, featuring expert performances by the Westminster Choir, Elder has a command of the choral idiom that defies simple categorization: he can go mano a mano with the best of the post-millennial nouveau-gardists, but he’s also not afraid to devote his considerable talent to creating the kind of immediately ingratiating melody-centered, harmony-gilded works that no choir director or singer—or listener—can resist.

The former type includes the opening O Magnum Mysterium, a remarkably affecting swirling, splashing of choral colors, assertive melodic turns, and dramatic expressive
Read more utterances not usually associated with this revered and oft-set text; the latter variety is distinguished by the heart-and soul-gripping Ballade to the Moon, Star Sonnet, and Lullaby, with texts by the composer: “On moonlit night I wander free, my mind to roam on thoughts of thee. With midnight darkness beckoning my heart toward mystic fantasy: Come, dream in me!”; or, “In stillness high above the slumbering shore/where wistful waves of foam caress the sand; A silent watchman o’er the darkened land/adrift celestial seas of twilight soars.”; or this, “Lullaby, sing lullaby, the day is far behind you. The moon sits high atop the sky, now let sweet slumber find you. Away.” A touch of Rutter here, of Lauridsen there, but mostly just Elder and his sure sense of choral sound and the way of singers.

Then there are pieces that lie somewhere outside either of these borders. Elegy—”Day is done, gone the sun…”—is a sort of cross between Arvo Pärt and Eric Whitacre, but infused with Elder’s particular explicative technique, ultimately focusing our attention on some charming little upswinging, delightfully captivating phrase endings. In spite of any cursory comparisons with other composers’ styles, Elder proves both a resourceful student and a canny inventor. My only reservation concerns his decision to use some rather heavy percussion in the set titled Three Themes of Life and Love (to texts by 13th-century Persian poet Rumi). Perhaps this works better in concert, but on this recording the drums (and occasional cymbals) mostly seem a gratuitous intrusion in these otherwise perfectly conceived and constructed works. I say “mostly” because in the set’s third number, Drumsound Rises, the percussion effectively enhances the rhythmic character of the piece.

The disc’s title work, The Heart’s Reflection, is a beautiful piece full of rich textures and full-bodied, vibrant harmonies, and, yes, even a couple of Whitacre-esque licks. The text is a paraphrase by the composer of Proverbs 27:19: “See the waterfront shine forth resplendent; So the heart of humanity to all the earth reflects.” In the several works with piano, Elder proves he also is an expert at creating accompaniments that are both necessary and supportive of the choral parts—not as easy to do as some composers seem to believe. He’s even adept at turning a nursery-tune like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” into a delightful, encore-worthy gem.

Of course, Elder is fortunate here to have such a fine advocate as the Westminster Choir; the singing is everything a choral composer could hope for, including that often elusive component: it’s obviously well rehearsed. In addition, it’s informed with a feel for the important textural clarity that this music requires, benefiting not a little from the splendidly matched and carefully balanced voices and sections. The recording also benefits from having been made at two of the premiere concert/recording venues in the northeast U.S.: Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Mass. (Seven Last Words from the Cross) and Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, New York (the rest of the program). Highly recommended.

-- David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
O Magnum Mysterium, for chorus by Daniel Elder
Performer:  Mark Foster (Percussion), John Hudson (Piano), Jeffrey D. Grubbs (Percussion)
Conductor:  Joe Miller
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 02/2013/03/2013 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, N. Y 
Length: 5 Minutes 9 Secs. 
2.
Elegy, for chorus & soloists by Daniel Elder
Performer:  Mark Foster (Percussion), John Hudson (Piano), Jeffrey D. Grubbs (Percussion)
Conductor:  Joe Miller
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 02/2013/03/2013 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, N. Y 
Length: 4 Minutes 8 Secs. 
3.
The Heart's Reflection, for chorus ("Cordis Speculum") by Daniel Elder
Performer:  Jeffrey D. Grubbs (Percussion), Mark Foster (Percussion), John Hudson (Piano)
Conductor:  Joe Miller
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 02/2013/03/2013 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, N. Y 
Length: 5 Minutes 15 Secs. 
4.
Nocturnes (3) for chorus & piano by Daniel Elder
Performer:  Jeffrey D. Grubbs (Percussion), Mark Foster (Percussion), John Hudson (Piano)
Conductor:  Joe Miller
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 02/2013/03/2013 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, N. Y 
Length: 14 Minutes 19 Secs. 
5.
Seven Last Words from the Cross, for chorus by Daniel Elder
Performer:  Jeffrey D. Grubbs (Percussion), Mark Foster (Percussion), John Hudson (Piano)
Conductor:  Joe Miller
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 06/2012 
Venue:  Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Mass., Unites 
Length: 8 Minutes 25 Secs. 
6.
Themes of Life and Love (3), for chorus & percussion by Daniel Elder
Performer:  Jeffrey D. Grubbs (Percussion), Mark Foster (Percussion), John Hudson (Piano)
Conductor:  Joe Miller
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 02/2013/03/2013 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, N. Y 
Length: 11 Minutes 26 Secs. 
7.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, for chorus by Daniel Elder
Performer:  Mark Foster (Percussion), Jeffrey D. Grubbs (Percussion), John Hudson (Piano)
Conductor:  Joe Miller
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 02/2013/03/2013 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, N. Y 
Length: 3 Minutes 16 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Deep waters... May 21, 2014 By Jonathan S. See All My Reviews "This album is proof that aural beauty too is not skin-deep. Mr. Elder's music contains a depth that keeps the listener rediscovering new perspectives with every repetition. Highly worth a listen, and even more worth a second or tenth. This style, seemingly a deviation of the neo-American style to a more impressionistic palette, keeps the ear engaged throughout (even the longer offerings) and expertly uses sound to convey emotion -- which I believe is the focus of this collection by the Westminster Choir. Speaking of which, the choir performs with a laudable degree of musicality and poise under Maestro Miller's direction. Highly recommended." Report Abuse
 sounds familiar? March 18, 2014 By Sally C. (denver, CO) See All My Reviews "Elder composes very much like Eric Whitacre: meaning melodic with a contemporary edge. However, his music, as lovely as it is, is not quite as exciting as Whitacre's. This is lovely, restful background music, though." Report Abuse
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