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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars like having your ears kissed by angels, 30 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Cloudburst and other choral works (Audio CD)
I like to think of Eric Whitacre as the healthy face of modern music making. His shoulder length blond hair suggests a musical apprenticeship in an early 90's grunge rock band. Things might have turned out that way, but everything changed on the day he joined the choir at college to check out the girls - and got entranced by the sound of Mozart's Requiem which they were rehearsing. His first works written in 1991 around age 21 that are included here: `I hide myself' (words by Emily Dickenson) and `Go, lovely rose' (words by Edward Waller), are squarely in the area of American and British 20th century choral traditions, but already his ability to conjure up ravishing harmonies is evident.

From the first notes on this disc: a setting of e e cummings `I thank you God for this most amazing day', the music says ` classic choral composition'. It isn't so much that the music reminds the listener of any particular previous music, it is more that this composer has the elements of choral composition under his complete control and knows just how to bring voices together to produce this elusive transcendent sound. Some people hear echoes of Avro Part, but if anything Whitacre is the Anti-Part: where Part strives for simplicity Whitacre luxuriates in richness. Listening to his music is like having your ears kissed by angels.

Near the centre of the disc are two longer settings. Track 6 `When David heard' gradually and insistently builds over its 13 minute length with the repeated affirmation `my son'. Track 8 `Cloudburst' is the most ambitious composition here with voices rising from speech into song, eventually joined by the clapping, finger clicking and thigh tapping of the singers to stimulate a rainstorm. It works incredibly well.

With 14 tracks and 70 minutes length one thing is obvious. For all Whitacre's command of voices he doesn't vary his time signatures much. Amongst 13 slow tempo compositions there is only 1 medium fast one, track 9 ` With a lily in your hand', which brings a brief two and a half minute respite. I am not going to criticise this too much, no doubt it was never intended for all these works to be presented together, but a wider range of speeds would add further interest to the music.

The Polyphany choir under the direction of Stephen Layton do a wonderful job of interpreting the music. The disc was recorded in The Temple Church in London, its voluminous interior provides a suitable acoustic for this music. Perhaps this is at the cost of hearing individual words annunciated, but the gain is a glorious richness and depth of tone.

All in all a five star recording. If it all gets too much at one sitting the solution is easy - revel in it in smaller doses!
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