Notes and Editorial Reviews
MESSAGES TO MYSELF: NEW MUSIC FOR CHORUS
Kent Tritle, cond; Musica Sacra
MSR 1411 (78: 27
Text and Translation)
Three Madrigals after Dowland.
Choral de Bêtes.
We Are One.
Messages to Myself.
No. 1, “Effortlessly, Love Flows.”
I Thank You God
Founded in 1964 by Richard Westenburg, Musica Sacra is the longest continuously performing professional chorus in New York City. It brings the best in choral music to a wide audience by commissioning new works and performing them along with well-known repertoire ranging from the time of Gregory the Great to something written last week. Surprisingly,
Messages to Myself
is the first recording they have released in almost two decades. The music sung covers the period from 1988, when Robert Convey wrote his quietly moving motet
to 2011, when Daniel Brewbaker finished the madrigals he wrote in honor of his parents. In the accompanying booklet, current music director and conductor Kent Tritle mentions that he is acquainted with several of the composers whose music is presented on this disc. One of them, Michael Gilbertson, was once his student. What they all have in common is that they represent some of the best purveyors of choral music at this time. Gilbertson’s
Madrigals after Dowland
begins the program with soft, sorrowful notes rendered in multiple harmonies that sound old and new at the same time. Zachary Patten’s
wraps the traditional text from Luke’s Gospel in dissonances that invite reflection.
Choral des Bêtes
is a set of four charming prayers in which a lion, a lamb, a whale, and a gazelle describe themselves and praise God. The lion’s music is strong and dramatic while the lamb’s is lyrical and melodic. The whale’s music is majestic as he asks for protection from whalers, and the gazelle’s tune seems to be borne along by the leaping animal. Although it is not the most technically challenging piece in the world, Brewbaker’s
brings back memories of long-forgotten childhood days and expresses them in soaring lyricism. Behzad Ranjbaran set a poem by the 13th-century Persian poet Sa’di, who states the same fact that John Donne made evident in his 17th meditation: we are all one, and when one of us suffers, we all feel the pain. Ranjbaran’s communicative music brings the voices together in shimmering choral tones laced with a passion for unity.
Messages to Myself
, Christopher Theofanidis’s pieces that provide the title for this album, offer the poetry of Walt Whitman, Jellaludin Rumi, Amy Kirsten, and William Butler Yeats in sensitively interpreted musical settings. Theofanidis’s pieces are crowned with lush textures broken only occasionally by passionate outbursts. Pulitzer Prize winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis’s
Effortlessly Love Flows
is part of his
and it creates a multilayered mystical atmosphere. Kernis bases his piece on some of the spiritual writings by Mechthild of Magdeburg, a 13th-century nun. She lived in Europe at approximately the same time as Sa’di lived in the Middle East. The finale, Elliot Z. Levine’s charming and cheerful
I Thank You God,
wraps this deeply thoughtful disc in an ode to the beauties of this world. It really makes you want to dance to its inviting rhythms, while it binds the program to all three of the world’s great religions. It is also the only piece that can be heard elsewhere. It was recorded by the Messiah College Choir, a recording that is now available only on MP3. The sound on the MSR disc is that of a large church and it sometimes swallows the words, but that would happen if you heard Musical Sacra live in New York. I enjoyed this CD a great deal and recommend it to lovers of choral music.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Works on This Recording
Magnificat, amen by Zachary Patten
Choral de bêtes by Christina Whitten Thomas
Mother, Father by Daniel Brewbaker
We Are One by Behzad Ranjbaran
Messages to Myself by Christopher Theofanidis
The Lamb by Robert Convery
I Thank You God by Elliot Z. Levine
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