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The Passing Of The Year

Whitacre / Antioch Chamber Ensemble / Copeland
Release Date: 09/14/2010 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1315   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Eric WhitacreJonathan DoveMorten LauridsenJean Belmont Ford
Performer:  Christine ChangJennifer Choi
Conductor:  Joshua Copeland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Antioch Chamber Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



THE PASSING OF THE YEAR Joshua Copeland, cond; Christine Chang (pn 1 ); Jennifer Cho (vn 2 ); Antioch C Ens MSR MS1315 (66:04 Text and Translation)


WHITACRE 3 Flower Songs. 1,2 5 Hebrew Love Songs. Sleep. A Boy and a Girl. DOVE Read more class="SUPER12">1 The Passing of the Year. LAURIDSEN Les Chansons des Roses. BELMONT FORD If Music be the Food of Love


Though Eric Whitacre composed the largest part of the music offered, it was Morton Lauridsen’s ravishing setting of Rilke’s poems of unrequited love that first attracted me to the Antioch Chamber Ensemble’s second release, The Passing of the Year . I was not disappointed. Copeland and his 11 fellow performers clearly appreciate the bitterness and hurt in the text and music. Textures are spare, the tempos initially swifter than other recordings, and the effect almost madrigal-like at times, despite modern harmonies. Foreshadowings of the famous Dirait-on are more clearly heard than usual as the cycle unfolds, so that when that popular hymn to self-absorbed love arrives, it seems a natural culmination of all that came before; the poised restraint perfectly capturing the rueful irony of the poem.


The Whitacre works fare equally well, despite an even greater dependency on sonority for their full effect. As with the Lauridsen, the smaller-scaled approach may disappoint those who insist on the richer textures of larger ensembles. Yet these performances are the more moving for their luminous clarity. The early Three Flower Songs in particular engage both ear and heart, every line clear, every chord impeccably tuned, and the text beautifully projected. In their different way, they are as fine as the urbane and generally slower Polyphony performances on Hyperion: both more impetuous and more inward, and performed as a cycle where Layton separates them. Antioch’s other Whitacre is comparable. A Boy and a Girl is no less sensual, but rather more tart and in the last verse more resigned at Copeland’s distinctly faster tempo. Faster tempo also suggests more restlessness at the beginning of Sleep , and a more hard-won fade into somnia.


Pride of place, however, must be given to the premiere recording of the choral version of Whitacre’s settings of Hila Plitmann’s Five Hebrew Love Songs . Heard here with piano accompaniment and Jennifer Cho’s elegant solo violin, the instruments underline the Semitic flavor of the work, now blended with, now standing apart from the voices in what is an ideal setting of his wife’s fragile, evocative verse. A recording of the string quartet version has just been released on Decca with the Eric Whitacre Singers, but this one is something special, not least for the wonderfully sensitive instrumental accompaniment.


Also receiving commercial recording premieres are works by Jonathan Dove and Jean Belmont Ford. Belmont Ford is the least familiar composer here, at least where recordings are concerned, though she has been composing the longest. We can thank Charles Bruffy for what we know of her work so far. Her setting of the Colonel Henry Heveningham poem If Music Be the Food of Love suggests she should be better represented. This charming part-song, beautifully performed, is harmonically of a type with Whitacre and Lauridsen. If it owes more than just the shared text to the first Purcell setting, it is none the less impressive for that.


Dove’s song cycle for double choir and piano, The Passing of the Year , was written in 2000 in memory of his mother, “who died too young.” The setting of seven poems by Blake, Dickinson, Peele, Nasche, and Tennyson marks the seasons of the calendar, and of life, ending in a section from the last poet’s In Memoriam, “Ring out, wild bells.” Those familiar with the style of Dove’s operas from the preceding decade—including Flight —will know his high-energy post-Minimalist style: some use of ostinati accompaniment in the piano, but also complex, cascading vocal lines excitingly tossed from section to section, ecstatic climaxes, shimmering tremolos, and piquant dissonances resolving unexpectedly. The 12-voice Antioch Chamber Ensemble, though stretched a bit here, projects the complex eight-part writing with remarkable authority. As elsewhere in this program, the flawless blend, excellent intonation, and enthusiastic but sensitive phrasing of these relatively young artists, pure and slightly bright in the English style, assures aural bliss.


The recordings were made during two sojourns to Charleston, South Carolina’s Piccolo Spoletto in 2008 and 2009. They are crystal-clear without being analytical, the parts distinct, but the voices beautifully integrated into the ensemble, with a nice sense of space but no excessive reverberation. A couple of imperfections: The piano—superbly played by longtime accompanist Christine Chang—seems in a slightly different acoustic. Also, the attractive booklet lacks notes on the works, and texts are provided only for the two requiring translation. Still, it is impossible to imagine that anyone who enjoys superlative choral singing would be dissuaded by that. The Antioch Chamber Ensemble’s first CD of Lauridsen, Poulenc, Vaughan Williams, Howells and others—equally accomplished though not as felicitously engineered—is nearly out of print. One can hope it will be made available as a download, at least. Meanwhile, make sure to grab this second release while it is available.


FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

1.
Flower Songs (3) by Eric Whitacre
Performer:  Christine Chang (Piano)
Conductor:  Joshua Copeland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Antioch Chamber Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1991-1992; USA 
Date of Recording: 2008-09 
Venue:  St. Philip's Church, Charleston, South C 
Length: 8 Minutes 23 Secs. 
2.
The Passing of the Year by Jonathan Dove
Performer:  Christine Chang (Piano)
Conductor:  Joshua Copeland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Antioch Chamber Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 2008-09 
Venue:  St. Philip's Church, Charleston, South C 
Length: 18 Minutes 46 Secs. 
3.
Sleep by Eric Whitacre
Performer:  Christine Chang (Piano)
Conductor:  Joshua Copeland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Antioch Chamber Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2000; USA 
Date of Recording: 2008-09 
Venue:  St. Philip's Church, Charleston, South C 
Length: 4 Minutes 43 Secs. 
4.
Les chansons des roses by Morten Lauridsen
Performer:  Christine Chang (Piano)
Conductor:  Joshua Copeland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Antioch Chamber Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
Date of Recording: 2008-09 
Venue:  St. Philip's Church, Charleston, South C 
Length: 15 Minutes 4 Secs. 
5.
If Music Be the Food of Love, for chorus & piano by Jean Belmont Ford
Performer:  Christine Chang (Piano)
Conductor:  Joshua Copeland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Antioch Chamber Ensemble
Period: Modern 
Date of Recording: 2008-09 
Venue:  St. Philip's Church, Charleston, South C 
Length: 2 Minutes 48 Secs. 
6.
Hebrew Love Songs (5) "Rak HaHatchala" by Eric Whitacre
Performer:  Jennifer Choi (Violin), Christine Chang (Piano)
Conductor:  Joshua Copeland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Antioch Chamber Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996/2001; Switzerland 
Date of Recording: 2008-09 
Venue:  St. Philip's Church, Charleston, South C 
Length: 9 Minutes 31 Secs. 
7.
A Boy and a Girl by Eric Whitacre
Performer:  Christine Chang (Piano)
Conductor:  Joshua Copeland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Antioch Chamber Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2002; USA 
Date of Recording: 2008-09 
Venue:  St. Philip's Church, Charleston, South C 
Length: 3 Minutes 59 Secs. 

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