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Vaughan Williams: Mass In G Minor / Mackenzie, Et Al


Release Date: 02/28/2006 
Label:  Telarc   Catalog #: 60654   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Olivier MessiaenRalph Vaughan WilliamsMaurice DurufléAaron Copland,   ... 
Performer:  Nin HilesArietha LockhartJames [Bass Voice] MorrowPam Elrod
Conductor:  Norman Mackenzie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  
SuperAudio CD:  $17.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

One thing you have to say: there's a lot of sound on this CD. Not only is the sound of the “chamber” choir huge, but also the sound of the space in which the choir sings—a church in Atlanta—is a major presence, and undoubtedly that's what Telarc's production team was going for on this SACD. I listened on my regular audio system--not in SACD-surround--and I felt the fullness and depth of the recording immediately in the opening track, Messiaen's oft-performed masterpiece O sacrum convivium. Whether this is completely to your liking will depend on whether you prefer your choral sound more like a plush carpet--as we remember from the days of
Read more Robert Shaw and continued here under Norman Mackenzie--or whether leaner textures, drier natural timbres, fewer voices, and clearer definition to the lines are your thing.

As beautiful as the big, warm, vibrant sound can be—and there's plenty of beauty to be heard here—it also can be the enemy of intonation, especially in the more thick-textured and/or louder passages. This choir is a first-rate ensemble of long experience, and especially in the Messiaen, Duruflé, and Copland its performances are exemplary. But in the Vaughan Williams Mass the modal harmony in general and the major/minor chord shifts in particular (as in the tricky choir entrance in the Agnus Dei) make some trouble for the singers, whose intonation generally is not an issue. (There’s also some distracting vocalizing—conductor humming?—in several spots.) Acoustic space and recording perspective also adversely affect the clarity of texture in the Tallis O sacrum convivium, for which the choir maintains an undeniably gorgeous “sound” but loses much of the important linear and inner rhythmic detail.

Since most of the repertoire on this program has been recorded very successfully many times (the Copland motets being the exception), the distinguishing marks of this disc must be the particulars of the performances and the sound. Performance-wise, aside from the above-mentioned issues regarding choral quality, this set will appeal to listeners who prefer faster tempos in the Duruflé and Vaughan Williams—Mackenzie uncomfortably hurries the Ubi caritas and the “Kyrie” of the Mass—and a primary emphasis on lovely, thoroughly blended sound. It’s also important for those very fine Copland pieces—and probably will attract a few listeners who for some unknown reason absolutely must have yet another version of Tavener’s tired and tedious Song for Athene, probably included for commercial reasons but an odd bit of qualitative dissonance on an otherwise distinguished and harmonious program. While not a first choice for any of the individual works, the solid performances and Telarc’s sonic achievement certainly will impress many fans—and by the way, the Messiaen and Tallis sound especially fine on headphones!

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
O sacrum convivium! by Olivier Messiaen
Conductor:  Norman Mackenzie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; France 
2.
Mass in G minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Nin Hiles (Tenor), Arietha Lockhart (Soprano), James [Bass Voice] Morrow (Bass),
Pam Elrod (Alto)
Conductor:  Norman Mackenzie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920-1921; England 
3.
Motets (4) on Gregorian themes, Op. 10 by Maurice Duruflé
Conductor:  Norman Mackenzie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; France 
4.
Motets (4) by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Pam Elrod (Alto), Nin Hiles (Tenor), Arietha Lockhart (Soprano),
James [Bass Voice] Morrow (Bass)
Conductor:  Norman Mackenzie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Paris, France 
5.
O sacrum convivium by Thomas Tallis
Conductor:  Norman Mackenzie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; England 
6.
Song for Athene by John Tavener
Conductor:  Norman Mackenzie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; England 

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