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Spanish Classics - Song Of The Stars


Release Date: 06/30/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570533   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Pablo CasalsEnrique GranadosEnrique MoreraM Blancafort de Rosselló,   ... 
Performer:  Mark KruczekErica KiesewetterDouglas RivaMelissa Kelley
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voices of Ascension
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"A new release on Naxos of a forgotten work, 'Song of the Stars' by the esteemed Spanish composer Enrique Granados, is real cause for celebration. This 17-minute piece for piano, organ and three choirs had not been heard since its debut in Barcelona in 1911—at the same concert at which Granados unveiled his monumental piano suite 'Goyescas.' It is more than the passage of time that distinguishes this find, however. It’s a masterpiece. What’s more, the new live recording, featuring conductor Dennis Keene and the Voices of Ascension, pianist Douglas Riva and organist Mark Kruczek is gorgeous in every way—from the engineering quality to the impeccable performances of both singers and instrumentalists. ... It has been a long process. But Read more the final result is in and, says Mr. Riva, it has all been worth it. 'I’m proud and gratified to be able to bring this glorious piece to the world again.'" -- Stuart Isacoff, The Wall Street Journal, 7/20/09

An exceptional program, full of rewarding new encounters

This program of works by five Catalan composers, recorded at a series of New York concerts in March 2007 and performed by the excellent Voices of Ascension, will be a very satisfying discovery for fans of choral music. Several of these pieces make their world-premiere recording debut here, and in any event, except for Casals' justly revered Nigra sum, this music is rarely encountered in concert or on disc.

Some of it, namely Casals' Rosarium Beatae Virginis Mariae (nine brief settings of liturgical texts, from the Pater noster to three different Ave Marias--with gorgeous soprano solos by Elena Williamson in two of the latter), was never intended for concert use but rather for services at the Catalan monastery of Montserrat. These pieces are beautiful little gems, well worth repeating, that exude an ardent reverence for the texts. Alternately, Granados' Salve Regina is a fairly routine, functional piece of late-19th-century Catholic church music--it's certainly pretty and effective in its evocation of the text, but not particularly remarkable or musically compelling.

On the other hand, you understandably may reach for the repeat button after hearing the stunning opening to Enric Morera's Ave Maria, with its leaping choral chords over the organ's imposing foundation, joined by a fine soprano soloist (Melissa Kelley). The same composer's El Rossinyol (The Nightingale), for men's choir, recalls rustic folksong settings by Brahms or Schumann, while Manuel Blancafort's Cant d'amor charms with its delightful tune (reminiscent of another Catalan song, La dames de Mallorca) and some occasionally adventurous harmonic treatment. Even more interesting, and for me the disc's highlights, are the two short a cappella selections by Manuel Oltra (b. 1922), which show some real harmonic and rhythmic inventiveness--and expert choral writing--in their realization of two poems by Federico Garcia Lorca.

Granados returns with two instrumental works. Romanza, for violin & piano, in the style of Romantic light yet sophisticated parlor music, is full of pleasing melody and rich harmonies. It's certainly easy to listen to, especially in Erica Kiesewetter's sensitive interpretations; but at nearly six minutes it's a bit long for its material. Escena religiosa, which involves both organ and piano as partners to the violin, is highlighted by an emotionally-wrought melodic violin passage supported by hymn-like utterances from the other instruments. My complaint here is that the violin is recorded in an oddly close perspective that subdues its natural resonance.

The "big" work here is Granados' Cant de les estrelles (Song of the stars), which has either been lost or in legal limbo for decades. It receives its recorded premiere here--and its first performance since its debut in Barcelona in 1911. Scored for the unusual combination of piano, organ, and three choruses (which ensures a future of rare performances!), the work opens with an extended piano solo that owes much to Granados' early roots in Schumann and Chopin. It really gets interesting when the organ enters after six minutes or so; then at eight minutes, the ethereal-sounding voices float briefly over the piano, soon returning a cappella, alternating with the instruments.

Harmonically, the music varies from simple thirds in the chorus to a sort of Wagnerian-style chromaticism to the big-chord piano outbursts of any number of late-Romantic composers. The work concludes with an extended celebration of the Cant de les estrelles itself, richly, traditionally harmonized. This is an exceptional program, full of rewarding new encounters, very respectably recorded--and especially noteworthy for Manuel Oltra's Eco and Preludio and Granados' often strange and wonderful Cant de les estrelles. Highly recommended!

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

1.
Rosarium beatae virginis by Pablo Casals
Performer:  Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voices of Ascension
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932 
Length: 1 Minutes 33 Secs. 
2.
Recordare, virgo mater by Pablo Casals
Performer:  Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voices of Ascension
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942 
3.
Salve Regina by Enrique Granados
Performer:  Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Period: Romantic 
Length: 5 Minutes 11 Secs. 
4.
Nigra sum by Pablo Casals
Performer:  Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voices of Ascension
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942 
Length: 4 Minutes 37 Secs. 
5.
El Rossinyol by Enrique Morera
Performer:  Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 40 Secs. 
6.
Romanza for Violin and Piano by Enrique Granados
Performer:  Erica Kiesewetter (Violin), Douglas Riva (Piano)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voices of Ascension
Period: Romantic 
Written: Spain 
Length: 6 Minutes 5 Secs. 
7.
Ave Maria by Enrique Morera
Performer:  Melissa Kelley (Soprano), Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 28 Secs. 
8.
Escena religiosa by Enrique Granados
Performer:  Erica Kiesewetter (Violin), Mark Kruczek (Organ), Douglas Riva (Piano)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voices of Ascension
Period: Romantic 
Length: 4 Minutes 41 Secs. 
9.
Cant d'amor by M Blancafort de Rosselló
Performer:  Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 49 Secs. 
10.
Eco by Manuel Oltra
Performer:  Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
11.
Preludio by Manuel Oltra
Performer:  Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 55 Secs. 
12.
Cant de les estrelles by Enrique Granados
Performer:  Douglas Riva (Piano), Mark Kruczek (Organ)
Conductor:  Dennis Keene
Period: Romantic 
Length: 17 Minutes 35 Secs. 

Featured Sound Samples

Canciones de amor (Oltra): No 2: Eco
Cant de les estrelles (Granados)

Sound Samples

Rosarium beatae virginis: Pater noster
Rosarium beatae virginis: Ave Maria I
Rosarium beatae virginis: Ave Maria II
Rosarium beatae virginis: Ave Maria III
Rosarium beatae virginis: Panem nostrum
Rosarium beatae virginis: Sancta Maria I
Rosarium beatae virginis: Sancta Maria II
Rosarium beatae virginis: Sicut erat
Recordare, virgo mater
Salve regina
Nigra sum (I am black)
El Rossinyol
Romanza
Ave Maria
Escena religiosa
Cant d'amor
3 canciones de amor: No. 2. Eco
3 canciones de amor: No. 3. Preludio
Cant de les estrelles

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