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The American Spirit / Krueger, St. Martin's Chamber Choir


Release Date: 04/03/2007 
Label:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir   Catalog #: 4   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Cecil EffingerEdward MacDowellTerry SchlenkerTim Sarsany,   ... 
Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a well-conceived and solidly executed program of American choral works highlighted by two 20th-century a cappella classics and enhanced by lesser-known but worthy repertoire that effectively illustrates the disc's theme. The classics are Jean Berger's The Eyes of All, here sung about as well as it can be (although the balance tends to favor the tenor), and Randall Thompson's Alleluia, the deceptively simple piece that thousands have tried but few have sung well. This is not a bad performance, but it's not much better than average, sounding too square and deprived of that near-impossible-to-achieve naturally flowing, dynamic energy and momentum.

Cecil Effinger's Four Pastorales, with an expertly written part for solo
Read more oboe, are fine pieces that these singers obviously know well and enjoy, as they do their director's own Lamentations of Jeremiah, which are quite beautiful examples of harmonized chant-melody, their rhythms ideally inflected. Choir-member Terry Schlenker's Kyrie has some intriguing ideas and many very lovely moments, even if it does go on too long for its material, and Berger's Skelton Poems make a profound impression in these devoted performances, although the balance gives too much prominence to the piano.

Texts are included, but there are no notes on the individual works. Instead, director Timothy Krueger offers an explanation of the program's theme and of the choir's particular personal connection with the late Jean Berger. Strongly recommended to fans of this excellent choir.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com


This delicious program was recorded in 2002 and appears to have had its first release in the same year. The delay in its coming to hand for review may be due to a more recent change in distribution arrangements; in any case, the "better-late-than-never" cliche certainly applies here in spades.

Director Krueger writes, "the works on this CD are not overtly patriotic per se; and such a com­pilation would be out of step with who and what St. Martin's is. Rather, they celebrate the wealth of the American choral tradition, of which St. Martin's is a part." The repertoire is largely 20th centu­ry, the bookend dates being 1896 (MacDowell) and 2002 (Schlenker); but within that parameter, the program does in fact present a gratifyingly wide range of both subject matter and style—gentle folksiness in the first of the Effinger Pastorales, piquant tone clusters in the Schlenker Kyrie, har­monized chant in the Krueger Lamentations.

The performances themselves are exquisite—perfect blend, diction, and intonation; unfailingly unanimous attacks and releases. The sonic engineering does them full justice. Oboist Sue Logan (Effinger) and pianist Tamara Goldstein (Berger's Skelton Poems) acquit themselves admirably, as do vocal soloists JoAnn Gudvangen-Brown, M. B. Krueger, and David Farwig in the Schlenker Kyrie— the latter making a more extended and equally distinguished return appearance in the Skelton set.

As Krueger notes, the ensemble had developed a close relationship with composer Jean Berger during the five years preceding his death in May 2002; and I have no reason to doubt that their rendi­tion of the Skelton Poems does, indeed, fulfill their hope of "conformfing] very closely to his original conception." Additional praise must be accorded to Mark Sheldon (who evidently shares conducting duties with Krueger) for his scrupulous attention to the dynamic markings in the justly-popular Thompson Alleluia: the gradual crescendo of this work progresses, if you will, logarithmically rather than geometrically, and it's a tempting trap for conductors to flatten out that curve by building too much too soon. It's only in this track that the present release could be said to have any substantial com­petition; but, in fact, I can't imagine the piece being rendered much more engagingly than it is here.

A couple of variously weighty quarrels with the documentation: the texts of works in languages other than English are given only in translation, not in the original. Interestingly, in Justice et morte, poet John Skelton (1460-1529) renders the same words first in French, then in Latin, and finally in English; the full text is given here, though the reprise of the French section after the Latin one isn't indicated, to this listener's momentary confusion. More troublesome is the absence of any notes on the various works; to speak only of the opening set, I'd never heard (as best I can recall, anyhow) of either Cecil Effinger or poet Thomas Hornsby Ferril, and both are such capable masters of their respective crafts that I'd like very much to have been told something about them.

Warmly recommended nonetheless.

-- James Carson, Fanfare [3/2007]
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Works on This Recording

1. Pastorales (4) for Chorus and Oboe by Cecil Effinger
Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; USA 
2. Woodland Sketches, Op. 51: no 1, To a Wild Rose by Edward MacDowell
Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; USA 
Notes: Arranger: Arthur Somervell. 
3. Mass for Double Choir: Kyrie by Terry Schlenker
Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
4. Salve mater misericordiae by Tim Sarsany
Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
5. Lamentations of Jeremiah by Timothy J. Krueger
Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
6. Alleluia by Randall Thompson
Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USA 
7. The eyes of all wait upon thee by Jean Berger
Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
8. Skelton Poems by Jean Berger
Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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