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America - Copland, Reich, Cage, Feldman, Bernstein, Barber / Creed, SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart

Copland / Reich / Swr Vokalensemble Stuttgart
Release Date: 03/25/2014 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 93306   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Aaron CoplandJohn CageMorton FeldmanLeonard Bernstein,   ... 
Performer:  Kerstin SteubeRüdiger LinnPhilip NiederbergerAngelika [Soprano Vocal] Lenter,   ... 
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

AMERICA • Marcus Creed, cond; SWR Voc Ens, Stuttgart; Franz Vitzthum (ct);1 Andra Darzins (va);2 Tomoko Hemmi3, Jürgen Kruse4 (synthesizer); Markus Stange (celesta, pn);5 Franz Bach6, Boris Müller7, Peter Kaliss8 (perc) • HÄNSSLER 93.306 (77:33)

COPLAND Four Motets. REICH 3,4,6,7Proverb. CAGE Five. FELDMAN 2,5,7The Rothko Chapel. BERNSTEIN 1,7,8Missa Brevis. BARBER 6A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map

This is an extremely well-thought-out collection, performed with skill and sensitivity by this German vocal ensemble, with friends. Copland, Barber, and Bernstein occupy one wing, as it were, and the other is occupied by Reich, Cage, and Feldman, and both wings contain major works which gain in stature
Read more through their juxtaposition. An interesting feature of the program is that most of the works call for unusual instrumental partners—that is, neither a piano nor an orchestra. Barber’s, for example, highlights a set of timpani, Bernstein’s a set of bells, and a viola (with percussion and celesta) plays a crucial role in Feldman’s work. By definition, these are American works, but their “American-ness” is not stereotypical. In other words, for many reasons, this is a surprising program.

Anyone who cares about modern music needs a recording of The Rothko Chapel in his or her collection. Feldman composed this work in 1971 for a meditation chapel in Texas in which Mark Rothko’s canvases play a central role. For some reason, most of those recordings already available feature German ensembles—in fact, the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart have recorded it previously for Hänssler Classic. At 26:02, this is a spacious performance, but it never loses its tension, and when, toward the end of the work, Andra Darzins’s viola introduces an honest-to-goodness melody, it is like returning to a comforting, familiar place after having sojourned through strange territories. I’d say that the distinguishing feature of this new recording is the egalitarian relationship among the performers. In other words, this Rothko Chapel is not a choral work per se.

The other work that I want to highlight is Steve Reich’s Proverb, an astonishingly beautiful work that sets Wittgenstein’s dictum “How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life.” Reich’s polyphonic writing, while fundamentally lyrical, creates achingly beautiful dissonances, and the work also can be heard as a tribute to the organum writing of Pérotin—which, to my ears, always sounds strikingly modern anyway. Proverb was composed for Paul Hillier and Theatre of Voices, who recorded it for Nonesuch, but this new recording is distinguished by the cooler sound of the German ensemble—specifically, three sopranos (who sound a bit like boys) and two tenors. This is one of Reich’s best works, and it is beautifully performed here.

Copland’s early Four Motets are atypical but rewarding. Cage’s Five (one of his late Number Pieces) has brevity on its side, as does Bernstein’s Missa Brevis, a late work that nevertheless originated from incidental music composed decades earlier. It was Robert Shaw who suggested that Bernstein adapt it into a choral work, and Shaw’s Telarc recording certainly is luxurious, but there’s a place for this leaner and more athletic German reading. Although Barber’s curious setting of a text by Stephen Spender here is performed with more atmosphere than drama, it nevertheless brings the CD to an effective close.

Especially for the Reich and the Feldman, this is recommended, but it adds up to more than the sum of its individual components.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Motets (4) by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Kerstin Steube (), Rüdiger Linn (), Philip Niederberger ()
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Paris, France 
Venue:  Christuskirche Gänsheide, Stuttgart 
Length: 11 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Five by John Cage
Performer:  Angelika [Soprano Vocal] Lenter (), Johanna Zimmer ()
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/12/2013 
Venue:  Christuskirche Gänsheide, Stuttgart 
Length: 5 Minutes 4 Secs. 
The Rothko Chapel by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Markus Stange (), Johanna Zimmer (), Markus Stange (Piano),
Boris Müller (Percussion), Andra Darzins (Viola), Ulrike Becker (Alto)
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; USA 
Venue:  SWR-Funkstudio, Stuttgart 
Length: 26 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Missa Brevis by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Peer Kaliss (Percussion), Boris Müller (Percussion), Franz Vitzthum ()
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/14/2013 
Venue:  Christuskirche Gänsheide, Stuttgart 
Length: 12 Minutes 23 Secs. 
A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map, Op. 15 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Alexander Yudenkov (), Franz Bach ()
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/18/2013 
Venue:  SWR-Funkstudio, Stuttgart 
Length: 7 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Proverb, for 3 sopranos, 2 tenors, 2 vibes & 2 organs by Steve Reich
Performer:  Kerstin Steube (), Julius Pfeifer (), Johanna Zimmer (),
Tomoko Hemmi (Synthesizer), Boris Müller (Vibraphone), Franz Bach (Vibraphone),
Jürgen Kruse (Synthesizer), Kirsten Drope (), Johannes Kaleschke ()
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1995 
Venue:  SWR-Funkstudio, Stuttgart 
Length: 13 Minutes 25 Secs. 

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