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Spotless Rose - Hymns To The Virgin Mary / Bruffy, Phoenix Chorale


Release Date: 09/30/2008 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 5066   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Stephen PaulusBenjamin BrittenCecilia McDowallHerbert Howells,   ... 
Performer:  Jill ChapmanJill Lesueur-ChipmanRobert ComeauxKira Rugen,   ... 
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

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

The Phoenix Chorale (formerly the Phoenix Bach Choir) and its director Charles Bruffy have made some fine recordings for Chandos, and here is another. While the program suggests a Christmas theme--the Howells and Britten pieces especially--the majority of the works are settings of texts from the Marian liturgy or other Biblical passages that may be sung at other times of year. Interestingly, the more familiar pieces--the Britten, Howells, and Willan--receive the least affecting performances: A Hymn to the Virgin just seems a little rushed and routinely inflected; likewise A Spotless Rose doesn't find the right tempo and therefore
Read more doesn't flow easily like it should; the Willan motets are generally fine but don't take advantage of the expressive possibilities inherent in the irregular phrasing and the composer's free metrical form.

Most listeners will find extraordinary pleasure in the rest of this substantial program. Stephen Paulus creates a rich-colored atmosphere, expressing his text (a 14th-century lauda) with beautiful and often unexpected harmonies and rhythms that reflect both modern and medieval style. British composer Cecilia McDowall's Three Latin Motets owe much to the current trend in choral music toward closely-voiced dissonances alternating with full major and minor harmonies with added sixths, seconds, and ninths. Like the Paulus work and Jean Belmont Ford's Electa, McDowall's motets are very much text focused, both in terms of rhythm and patterns of phrasing and inflection. The second motet, Ave Maria, sounds like it could be a work by Arvo Pärt, with slightly more dissonance.

Ford's Electa was written for Bruffy's Kansas City Chorale, and it receives its premiere recording here. In four sections, it also utilizes a mixed harmonic palette as well as a wide variety of voicings to make for moving and often riveting settings of its carefully chosen texts: De profundis; Asperges me, Domine/Credo; Ave, dulcissima Maria; and Magnificat. Her choice to accompany parts of this work with a bass drum and timpano is inspired and very effective.

For me, the highlights of the disc are Javier Busto's two Marian pieces, Ave, maris stella (receiving its premiere recording) and Ave, Maria. Written (as his works usually are) with such seeming simplicity and yet overwhelming beauty--an unusual, deeply felt, knowing understanding of voices that many choral composers just don't have--these two pieces will certainly have you pressing the repeat button many times. The notes by Kathryn Parke also must be cited for their extraordinarily engaging and interesting discussion of the music and the subject of Marian legend. Don't miss this.

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

1. Splendid Jewel by Stephen Paulus
Performer:  Jill Chapman (Soprano), Jill Lesueur-Chipman (Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003; USA 
Length: 3 Minutes 49 Secs. 
2. Hymn to the Virgin by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Robert Comeaux (Tenor), Kira Rugen (Soprano), Amy Perciballi (Alto),
Jill Chapman (Soprano), David Topping (Bass)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930/1934; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 43 Secs. 
3. Latin Motets (3): no 1, Ave Regina by Cecilia McDowall
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 3 Minutes 38 Secs. 
4. Latin Motets (3): no 2, Ave Maria by Cecilia McDowall
Performer:  Jacob Herbert (Baritone)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 58 Secs. 
5. Latin Motets (3): no 3, Regina Caeli by Cecilia McDowall
Performer:  Carol Proudfoot (Soprano), Cassandra Ewer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 34 Secs. 
6. Carol-Anthems (3) for Chorus: no 2, A spotless rose by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Jacob Herbert (Baritone)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918-1920; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 41 Secs. 
7. Ave maris stella by Javier Busto
Performer:  Cassandra Ewer (Soprano), Carol Proudfoot (Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Spain 
Length: 4 Minutes 40 Secs. 
8. Ave Maria by Javier Busto
Performer:  Cassandra Ewer (Soprano), Carol Proudfoot (Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1980; Spain 
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
9. Fair in face B 313 by Healey Willan
Performer:  Sonja Branch (Bass Drum), Sonja Branch (Timpani), Joel M. Rinsema (Tenor),
Rebecca Lloyd (Soprano), Caroline Markham (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1937; Canada 
Length: 2 Minutes 1 Secs. 
10. I beheld her beautiful as a dove, B 312 by Healey Willan
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1937; Canada 
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
11. Rise up, my love, my fair one, B 314 by Healey Willan
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1937; Canada 
Length: 2 Minutes 5 Secs. 
12. Electa: De profundis by Jean Belmont Ford
Performer:  Sonja Branch (Bass Drum), Joel M. Rinsema (Tenor), Rebecca Lloyd (Soprano),
Caroline Markham (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; Kansas City, Missour 
Length: 3 Minutes 37 Secs. 
13. Electa: Asperges me Domine by Jean Belmont Ford
Performer:  Sonja Branch (Bass Drum), Joel M. Rinsema (Tenor), Rebecca Lloyd (Soprano),
Caroline Markham (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; Kansas City, Missour 
Length: 3 Minutes 48 Secs. 
14. Electa: Ave dulcissima Maria by Jean Belmont Ford
Performer:  Sonja Branch (Bass Drum), Joel M. Rinsema (Tenor), Rebecca Lloyd (Soprano),
Caroline Markham (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; Kansas City, Missour 
Length: 3 Minutes 48 Secs. 
15. Electa: Magnificat anima mea by Jean Belmont Ford
Performer:  Sonja Branch (Bass Drum), Joel M. Rinsema (Tenor), Rebecca Lloyd (Soprano),
Caroline Markham (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Chorale
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; Kansas City, Missour 
Length: 10 Minutes 0 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Splendid Jewel
A Hymn to the Virgin
3 Latin Motets: No. 1. Ave Regina
3 Latin Motets: No. 2. Ave Maria
3 Latin Motets: No. 3. Regina Caeli
A Spotless Rose
Ave Maris Stella
Ave Maria
3 Liturgical Motets: No. 1. Fair in Face
3 Liturgical Motets: No. 2. I beheld her, beautiful as a dove
3 Liturgical Motets: No. 3. Rise up, my love, my fair one
Electa: De profundis
Electa: Asperges me, Domine - Credo
Electa: Ave, dulcissima Maria
Electa: Magnificat anima mea

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