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Turn The Page: New Directions In American Choral Music

Volti / Geary
Release Date: 03/30/2010 
Label:  Innova   Catalog #: 759   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Kurt RohdeGabriela Lena FrankRonald CaltabianoMark Winges,   ... 
Performer:  Jennifer NadigElisabeth CommandayMichael EisenbergPhilip [Bass Vocal] Saunders,   ... 
Conductor:  Robert Geary
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Volti
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



TURN THE PAGE Volti INNOVA 759 (77: 03 )


KERNIS Ecstatic Meditations. ROHDE Endless. FRANK Ccollanan María. CALTABIANO Metaphor. MOE O the Flesh Is Hot But the Heart Is Cold. Read more class="COMPOSER12">WINGES Open the Book of What Happened. GARROP Sonnets of Beauty and Music. HAWLEY 2 Motets


It is interesting to compare this CD to Musica Intima’s Into Light disc, also reviewed in this issue. With 20 members, San Francisco’s Volti is eight up on Vancouver’s Musica Intima, but both are chamber choirs, by any stretch of the imagination. Volti has an artistic director, that being Robert Geary, whereas Musica Intima identifies no such person. Into Light is a disc of Canadian works, mostly by living composers. Turn the Page is a collection of “New Directions in American Choral Music,” so all the composers are American, and all are living. (The oldest, William Hawley, turns 60 this year.)


The audience for these two ensembles should be quite similar, and just as I recommended Into Light with enthusiasm, I recommend Turn the Page . Nevertheless, the ensembles and the discs are not carbon copies of one another. If I may be forgiven a moment of gross generalization, Musica Intima is the ensemble you turn to when you want a luxurious ear bath and spiritual cleansing. Volti, however, is less obsessed with beauty of sound and more interested with musical and intellectual stimulation. While Musica Intima’s intonation and blend are well nigh flawless, Volti’s are slightly challenged (but only slightly, and only occasionally) by the difficulty of the material. Not that the music on Musica Intima’s disc is easy, but the works on Turn the Page are more problematic to sing well, particularly in their harmonic intricacies, and sometimes we are made aware of that. This is not a complaint, though, but merely an observation. Volti’s catchphrase is “singing without a net,” and indeed, performances such as these are a kind of high-wire act, even if their impact is more cerebral.


One of the disc’s highlights is the opening selection: Aaron Jay Kernis’s Ecstatic Meditations , four settings of texts by Mechthild of Magdeburg, a nun who lived in the 13th century. Kernis seldom disappoints, and I was not surprised to learn that this cycle was named by the National Endowment for the Arts as an American Masterpiece of Choral Music. (I didn’t know that the NEA was giving such awards, yet I am glad that it is!) Simply listen to Kernis’s setting of the word “whirling” in the third song and you will hear a pure expression of religious joy in music. Stacey Garrop’s Sonnets of Beauty and Music sets two poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Still Will I Harvest Beauty Where It Grows” and “On Hearing a Symphony of Beethoven.” The second, in particular, has an appropriately orchestral richness that is most moving. Many of the works recorded here require a member of the ensemble to step forward and assume solo duties. Here, soprano Tonia D’Amelio is charged with singing praises to Beethoven, and does so with rapt vulnerability. Heard in person, a performance such as this one must stop time.


The engineering is truthful; three different recording venues were used, all to good effect. The booklet contains texts and, where needed, translations, plus welcome information about the repertoire, the works, and the singers.


Volti is more than 30 years old. I hope both of us are around to enjoy the ensemble’s golden jubilee. Did I mention that I love this disc?


FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

1. Endless, for chorus by Kurt Rohde
Conductor:  Robert Geary
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Volti
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2007 
Date of Recording: 05/2007-05/2009 
Venue:  Unitarian Universalist Church Of Berkele 
Length: 11 Minutes 3 Secs. 
2. Ccollanan María (Holy Mary), for chorus by Gabriela Lena Frank
Performer:  Jennifer Nadig (Alto), Elisabeth Commanday (), Michael Eisenberg (),
Philip [Bass Vocal] Saunders ()
Conductor:  Robert Geary
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Volti
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2004 
Date of Recording: 05/2007-05/2009 
Venue:  Unitarian Universalist Church Of Berkele 
Length: 5 Minutes 43 Secs. 
3. Metaphor, for chorus by Ronald Caltabiano
Conductor:  Robert Geary
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Volti
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1994 
Date of Recording: 05/2007-05/2009 
Venue:  Unitarian Universalist Church Of Berkele 
Length: 6 Minutes 32 Secs. 
4. Open the Book of What Happened, for chorus by Mark Winges
Conductor:  Robert Geary
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Volti
Period: Classical 
Written: 2005 
Date of Recording: 05/2007-05/2009 
Venue:  Unitarian Universalist Church Of Berkele 
Length: 13 Minutes 13 Secs. 
5. Sonnets of Beauty and Music, for chorus by Stacy Garrop
Performer:  Steven Sven [Tenor Vocal] Olbash (), Elisabeth Commanday ()
Conductor:  Robert Geary
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Volti
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2006 
Date of Recording: 05/2007-05/2009 
Venue:  Unitarian Universalist Church Of Berkele 
Length: 7 Minutes 44 Secs. 
6. Motets (2), for choir by William Hawley
Conductor:  Robert Geary
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Volti
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 05/2007-05/2009 
Venue:  Unitarian Universalist Church Of Berkele 
Length: 4 Minutes 12 Secs. 
7. O the Flesh is Hot But the Heart is Cold, for chorus by Eric Moe
Conductor:  Robert Geary
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2005 
Date of Recording: 05/2007-05/2009 
Venue:  Unitarian Universalist Church Of Berkele 
Length: 9 Minutes 28 Secs. 
8. Ecstatic Meditations, for chorus by Aaron J. Kernis
Conductor:  Robert Geary
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1996-1999 
Date of Recording: 05/2007-05/2009 
Venue:  Unitarian Universalist Church Of Berkele 
Length: 16 Minutes 30 Secs. 

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