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Shakespeare In Song / Phoenix Bach Choir

Phoenix Bach Choir / Bruffy
Release Date: 09/21/2004 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 5031   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Matthew HarrisFrank MartinSteven SametzJaakko Mantyarvi,   ... 
Performer:  Jacob W. HerbertCassandra EwerCarol PlattLaura Inman
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Bach Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 56 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

There’s more to Shakespeare’s songs than a hey-nonny-nonny, and the depth of the bard’s texts has inspired composers from well beyond the cultural borders of the English language. Nearly half of the Phoenix Bach Choir’s “Shakespeare in Song” disc offers intriguing music by composers who are neither English nor American. Chief among these is Switzerland’s Frank Martin, whose Songs of Ariel constitute a modern choral classic. These are haunting, harmonically unsettled settings, and for an example of the skill and beauty the Phoenix Bach Choir brings to this program, just listen to the wonderful intonation on the last chord of “Before You Can Say ‘Come’ and ‘Go’.”

Equally striking are the Four Shakespeare Songs from 1984 by the
Read more self-proclaimed “semi-professional” Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (born 1963). This ranges from the subdued, slithery, chromatic writing of the first two items to—in the witches’ material from Macbeth—what Leonard Bernstein might have sounded like had he been a Scandinavian choral composer: swooping vocal lines over strong, irresistible rhythms. With all due respect to Howard Shore, Mäntyjärvi’s music is exactly what I would associate with the atmosphere of The Lord of the Rings.

The American Matthew Harris (born 1956) is another composer worth investigating more deeply, judging from the seven (out of many) of his Shakespeare songs offered here. Without ever sounding like a stylistic pastiche, the music sometimes evokes lilting Renaissance madrigals (“Tell Me Where Is Fancy Bred”), sometimes English folk music (“When That I Was and a Little Tiny Boy”), sometimes American country-western swing (“When Daffodils Begin to Peer”). Charles Bruffy and his choir make the most of these stylistic shifts; tenor Robert Comeaux even steps out with a pop-inflected solo in “O Mistress Mine,” with its touch of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The shorter works here, chief among them Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Three Shakespeare Songs, provide similar pleasure in a diversity of moods and styles (the obscure Alan Murray, 1890–1952, sets “O Mistress Mine” as a hymn tune). All of them convey Shakespeare’s texts with great intelligence and sensitivity, and the same must be said of the Phoenix Bach Choir, with its snug part-singing, buoyant rhythms, and a tone that shifts easily from gleaming light to deepest gloom. The SACD surround-sound recording places the choir in a spacious acoustic while allowing textual clarity, with a realism that gives the impression that actual human beings are with you, performing this deeply human music.

James Reel, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Shakespeare Songs by Matthew Harris
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Phoenix Bach Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; USA 
Gesänge (5) des Ariel by Frank Martin
Performer:  Jacob W. Herbert (), Cassandra Ewer (), Carol Platt (),
Laura Inman ()
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; Switzerland 
Venue:  Camelback Bible Church, Paradise Valley, 
Length: 11 Minutes 32 Secs. 
When he shall die, for chorus by Steven Sametz
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Period: Contemporary 
Written: after 1997 
Venue:  Camelback Bible Church, Paradise Valley, 
Length: 4 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Shakespeare Songs (4), for chorus by Jaakko Mantyarvi
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1984 
Venue:  Camelback Bible Church, Paradise Valley, 
Length: 10 Minutes 44 Secs. 
O Mistress Mine: Shall I compare thee by Nils Lindberg
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; Sweden 
Venue:  Camelback Bible Church, Paradise Valley, 
Length: 2 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Sonnet LXIV by Dominick Argento
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2000s 
Venue:  Camelback Bible Church, Paradise Valley, 
Length: 3 Minutes 25 Secs. 
O mistress mine!, for chorus by Alan Murray
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Camelback Bible Church, Paradise Valley, 
Length: 1 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Shakespeare Songs (3) for Chorus by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Charles Bruffy
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; England 
Venue:  Camelback Bible Church, Paradise Valley, 
Length: 6 Minutes 5 Secs. 

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