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Premieres / Decormier, Counterpoint

Release Date: 12/09/2008 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1088   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Leonard BernsteinLouis MoysePaul Alan LeviMario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Counterpoint Instrumental EnsembleRobert DeCormier
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

COUNTERPOINT PREMIERES Robert De Cormier, cond; Louise De Cormier (nar); 1 D. Thomas Toner (perc); 1 John Muratore (gtr); 2 Counterpoint ALBANY TROY 1088 (63:53 Text and Translation)

BERNSTEIN The Lark: Choruses. 1 Read more class="COMPOSER12">MOYSE Solfège à la française. LEVI Bye, Bye, Toots. 2 CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO Romancero gitano 2

Counterpoint is a small vocal ensemble founded in 2000 by its musical director De Cormier. It specializes in “rarely performed works, unique arrangements, and the work of contemporary composers.” In this concert, which conforms to those ideals, it employs up to 13 voices. The singing is basically a cappella , although some light percussion and bells decorate the Bernstein, as does a guitar in the Levi and Castelnuovo-Tedesco

Leonard Bernstein wrote eight brief choruses for Lillian Hellmann’s 1955 Broadway adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s play The Lark , which tells the story of Joan of Arc’s trial. Bernstein set texts from the Latin Mass and from French songs of Joan’s era, and his musical settings—for seven women’s voices—range across the centuries. His very personal harmonies shine through a translucent curtain of ancient styles (imagine West Side Story in Verona, in Shakespeare’s day). These are lovely pieces, rarely heard because of their medium and their brevity. The first recording was for performances of the play, and there have been few since; this presentation claims originality by interspersing them with some of Joan’s speeches from the play (beautifully and simply read by Louise De Cormier), which works well, offering both context and contrast for the music, extending its scant 12.5 minutes to 17.5. If you prefer to hear the choruses without the speech, there is a recording by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen on the Coro label [ Fanfare 29:1]. It includes choruses by Barber, Copland, Del Tredici, Irving Fine, and Reich ( Clapping Music !), but it is twice the price of this disc.

The late Louis Moyse, the great flutist and one of the founders of the Marlboro School, composed Solfège à la française in 2002. It is a muted, graceful Baroque suite in five sections: Intrada, Sarabande, Menuet, Sicilienne, and Gigue, sung in French. Paul Alan Levi’s Bye, Bye, Toots was written as a memorial for poet Burt Chernow, to two of his poems and two by his wife Ann, also a poet. Words and music are filled with humor; the title comes from a meeting with extraterrestrials who carry Burt off to the moon. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s songs to nine poems of Federico Garcia-Lorca have a gentle Andalusian flavor but are disappointing in their lack of intensity—the poet’s name conjures memories of Golijov’s haunting Ainadamar . A grittier, gutsier performance might help.

Texts and English translations are included in the booklet. This disc is filled with a lazy, hazy charm, above which Bernstein’s choruses soar. They are reason enough for an urgent recommendation.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

The Lark: Choruses by Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Counterpoint Instrumental Ensemble,  Robert DeCormier
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; USA 
Solfège à la français by Louis Moyse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Counterpoint Instrumental Ensemble,  Robert DeCormier
Written: 2002; France 
Bye bye Toots by Paul Alan Levi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Counterpoint Instrumental Ensemble,  Robert DeCormier
Period: 20th Century 
Romancero Gitano, Op. 152 by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Counterpoint Instrumental Ensemble,  Robert DeCormier
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951 

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