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Rorem: Works For Choir And Organ / Harvard University Choir


Release Date: 03/21/2006 
Label:  Black Box   Catalog #: 1102   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ned Rorem
Performer:  Jung-A LeeCarson P. CoomanRobert AugustKate Nyham,   ... 
Conductor:  Murray Forbes Somerville
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harvard University ChoirAppleton Wind EnsembleBrattle Street Chamber Players
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



ROREM Arise shine . 2,8 Impromptu. 1 Hymn Anthems. 8 Why and Because . 1 The 70th Psalm. 4,8 Motets for the Church?s Year. 8 The Flight into Egypt . 1 Come, pure Read more hearts . 8 Mercy and truth are met . 3,8 Entreat me not . 1 A Sermon on Miracles . 5,6,7,8 Motets on Poems by G. M. Hopkins 2,3,8 ? Murray Forbes Somerville, dir; Carson Cooman (org); 1 Jung-A Lee (org); 2 Robert August (org); 3 Appleton Wind Ens; 4 Brattle St. C Players; 5 Kate Nyham (sop); 6 John McMunn (ten); 7 Harvard University Ch 8 ? BLACK BOX BM 1102 (60:31)


A fine collection of choral settings, all on religious texts, by avowed atheist Ned Rorem. Russell Platt, a writer on music and composer who studied with Rorem, takes pains in his notes to justify Rorem?s religious output; the composer himself merely brushes aside the question of why an atheist should write so many liturgical settings with the blunt response, ?because I am commissioned [to do so].? Rorem approaches every text he decides to set as a piece of poetry, and responds to it with perceptiveness and clarity: this is true of his secular songs and it is the case here. Having said that, these choral works sometimes display a more generalized voice with less of Rorem?s usual exquisite attention to detail. I can?t decide if that is in the writing or in the excellent but somewhat hearty performances; certainly, a few of these choral settings?such as the Hymn Anthems?do come across as more ?commissioned? than others. Platt points out that Rorem came from a Quaker family, albeit a secular one. This background not only informs the clarity and (deceptive) simplicity of his style, but perhaps it accounts for his production of music that is primarily functional.


Among the more interesting items on the program is the 1943 setting of Psalm 70, described as Rorem?s ?unofficial op. 1.? All the composer?s fingerprints are evident, already fully formed: the spiky yet consonant harmony (Hindemith more of an influence than he would later become), the sheer tunefulness of the thematic material, the sharp specific response to the meaning of words. The choir is accompanied by a wind and brass ensemble whose colors suggest the strong French strain in all of Rorem?s music (even though this early work precedes the composer?s extended residence in Paris during the 1950s).


Rorem is at his most engaged, it seems to me, when setting great poets: Gerard Manley Hopkins in the Three Motets and Paul Goodman in A Sermon on Miracles . In the third of the Hopkins Motets, ?Thee, God,? how perfectly the composer captures that Hopkinsesque quality of contained yet fulsome joy stemming from a long-held inner conviction. A deep jubilant faith, if you like. If you can fake that, you?re good?as the saying goes?and Rorem is good! Few other composers could write a unison setting of an ancient hymn text, as Rorem does here with Come, Pure Hearts , and produce a result at once so simple, singable, and attractively memorable.


Breaking up the choral selections are four pieces for organ solo, played by Carson Cooman (a composer and organist specializing in new music). The three titled pieces (see headnote) are from a set called ?Six Pieces for Organ.? The nature of the titles suggests a chronological sequence, so it would be good to hear all six in order.


The solo works are well performed but done in to a considerable extent by the distant sound and a reverberant acoustic, which muddies the contours of the thematic line, most notably in the faster Impromptu. The Harvard Choir is recorded from a better vantage point and comes through loud and clear. It is precise in attack and responsive to dynamic gradations but, as I said above, there is a bluffness to its sound as well that is not unpleasing, nor is it inappropriate to Rorem?s idiom. The tenor in A Sermon on Miracles is fine, but the soprano reveals an unsupported voice, more a chorister than a soloist at this stage of her career.


Overall, this CD is a worthwhile and enjoyable addition to the Rorem discography.


FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

1. Arise, shine, for your light has come by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Jung-A Lee (Organ)
Conductor:  Murray Forbes Somerville
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harvard University Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; USA 
2. Organbook no 3: Impromptu by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Carson P. Cooman (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989; USA 
3. Motets (7) for the Church Year by Ned Rorem
Conductor:  Murray Forbes Somerville
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harvard University Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; USA 
4. Come, pure hearts in sweetest measure by Ned Rorem
Conductor:  Murray Forbes Somerville
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harvard University Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973; USA 
5. Mercy and truth are met by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Robert August (Organ)
Conductor:  Murray Forbes Somerville
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harvard University Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983; USA 
6. Motets (3) on poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Robert August (Organ), Jung-A Lee (Organ)
Conductor:  Murray Forbes Somerville
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harvard University Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973; USA 
7. Hymn Anthems (3) by Ned Rorem
Conductor:  Murray Forbes Somerville
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harvard University Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; USA 
8. Pieces (6) for Organ: Why and Because by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Carson P. Cooman (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; USA 
9. Seventieth Psalm by Ned Rorem
Conductor:  Murray Forbes Somerville
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harvard University Choir,  Appleton Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
10. Pieces (6) for Organ: The Flight into Egypt by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Carson P. Cooman (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; USA 
11. Pieces (6) for Organ: Entreat Me Not by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Carson P. Cooman (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; USA 
12. A Sermon on Miracles by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Kate Nyham (Soprano), John McMunn (Tenor)
Conductor:  Murray Forbes Somerville
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harvard University Choir,  Brattle Street Chamber Players
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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