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The Earth & I: New American Choral Music

Laitman / Washington Master Chorale / Colohan
Release Date: 12/10/2013 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1454   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Lori LaitmanPatricia PludeStephen ChatmanNorman Dinerstein,   ... 
Performer:  Shuna Kreidler MichelsMark VogelAmy BroadbentNoelle Drewes
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



THE EARTH AND I Thomas Colohan, cond; Mark Vogel 1,3 (pn); Noelle Drawes 2 (ob); Kacy Clopton 3 (vc); Steven Combs 3 (bar); Washington Master Chorale ALBANY 1454 (66:39)


LAITMAN The Earth and I. PLUDE Read more class="SUPER12">1 October. CHAPMAN 1 Nature Songs: Autumn Violets; The Voice of the Rain; On the Beach at Night Alone. DINERSTEIN Frogs: An Old Silent Pond. BARBER To be sung on the water, op. 47/2. Heaven-Haven (A Nun takes the Veil). MECHEM Five Centuries of Spring: The Loveliest of Trees. FINNEY See how the arched Earth. ELFINGER 2 Four Pastorales. LAURIDSEN Nocturnes: Sure on this Shining Night 1. McCULLOUGH 3 The Eye Begins to See


Inspired by engagement with the natural world, this disc presents song cycles or individual songs celebrating this most precious of links. It is also intended to reflect the blossoming of works for choir in response to the ever-increasing standards in choral singing in the States in the second half of the 20th century, and the disc’s subtitle is New American Choral Music . The actual title of the disc comes from the result of Albany’s first commission, Lori Laitman’s 2011 The Earth and I , based on poems by Emily Dickinson. The first movement, “The Sun Went Down,” uses warm, inviting harmonies and is beautifully sculpted by the Washington Master Chorale. Laitman matches Dickinson’s poignant text with an instinctive feel for the poem’s mood and shape, yet with harmonic language that is perfectly consistent. The second movement, “The Sky in Love,” is more complex texturally in its various strands and interactions, while the final setting, “The Wind,” references back to the first. There is some ecstatic writing (and singing) in this final movement. The Washington Master Chorale under the direction of Thomas Colohan responds sensitively to the various techniques employed by Laitman.


Californian composer Patricia Plude’s October (1978), as well as introducing a piano, features two soloists from the choir: Any Broadbent (soprano) and Shauna Kreidler Mechels (mezzo). The text is taken from Robert Frost’s poem of the same name (most but not all of the poem is set), and Plude sets it for two-part women’s chorus. If not as sensitive or sophisticated as the Laitman, it is nevertheless pleasing. Back on track in terms of excellence are the excerpts from Stephen Chatman’s Nature Songs (2007). The central “The Voice of the Rain” is particularly beautiful, and the Washington Master Chorale is nothing short of radiant. The final song takes the familiar text “On the Beach at Night Alone” (familiar to musicians through Vaughan Williams’s treatment of it in his A Sea Symphony ). Perhaps Vaughan Williams trumps Chatman in terms of pure atmosphere, but Chatman manages to invoke intimacy in his own way: The chorus sings mainly in rhythmic unison against fragile piano chords, rising to a radiant ending.


Norman Dinerstein’s restrained 1979 setting of An Old Silent Pond is a translation of a Bash? haiku. The two Barber pieces (settings of Louise Bogan and Gerald Manley Hopkins respectively) are delivered with a real understanding of the idiom by the present performers. The Hopkins setting is particularly beautiful, the choral sound positively gorgeous, as it is in the setting of A. E. Housman’s The Loveliest of Trees by Kirke Mecham (b. 1925) and the 1947 setting of Andrew Marwell’s See how the arched Earth by Rose Lee Finney (1906–97).


The 1963 Four Pastorales by Colorado composer Carol Elfinger is written for the unusual, yet highly effective, combination of chorus and solo oboe. The oboe’s plaintive pipings reflect the emotions of the songs, which move from desolate depression through to hope and peace. The writing throughout is expert, and the recording is well-nigh perfect, setting the oboe just in the right space so that its commentaries and comments make maximal impact without over-foregrounding. The name of Morten Lauridsen might increase the appeal of this disc for some. His setting of poet James Agee’s Sure on this Shining Night (part of Lauridsen’s 2003 cycle Nocturnes ) is everything one might expect: expert and heart-warming. Finally, Donald McCullough’s The Eye Begins to See (2012), a beautiful metaphor of Nature as reflecting a journey towards self-realization. The Washington Master Chorale was in fact one of the co-commissioners of this work (the other being Words?sic Inc). Scored for chorus, quartet, piano, and cello, it is set in two highly evocative movements which include some frenzied writing, excitingly delivered. The plaintive ruminations of the solo cello in particular add depth to the experience. A fascinating disc.


FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

1.
The Earth and I by Lori Laitman
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
2.
October by Patricia Plude
Performer:  Shuna Kreidler Michels (Mezzo Soprano), Mark Vogel (Piano), Amy Broadbent (Soprano)
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
3.
from Nature Songs by Stephen Chatman
Performer:  Mark Vogel (Piano)
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
4.
from Frogs by Norman Dinerstein
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
5.
To be sung upon the water, Op. 42 no 2 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; USA 
6.
Heaven-Haven (A Nun Takes the Veil) by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961; USA 
7.
The Lovliest of Trees by Kirke Mechem
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
8.
See How the Arched Earth by Ross Lee Finney
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
9.
Pastorales (4) for Chorus and Oboe by Cecil Effinger
Performer:  Noelle Drewes (Oboe)
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; USA 
10.
Nocturnes for Chorus and Piano: no 3, Sure on this shining night by Morten Lauridsen
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2005; United States 
11.
The Eye Begins to See by Donald McCullough
Conductor:  Thomas Colohan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Master Chorale

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