Friday, January 4, 2008
Cloudburst: Choral Music of Eric Whitacre
Polyphony / Stephen Layton
Hyperion Records, CDA67543
The English conductor Stephen Layton heads two different choral groups, Polyphony and the Holst Singers, which are among my favorite musical entities. A conspicuous number of these two groups' recordings have ended up on my pile of favorites. I'm wildly fond of Polyphony's collection of Grainger and the Holst Singers' Vaughan Williams compilation, both from a few years ago, and they have a couple really excellent collections of Russian composers as well. Through them I learned of Morten Lauridsen and James MacMillan.
And now they've introduced me to Eric Whitacre. Whitacre (b. 1970) has a Master's degree from Julliard, and specializes in choral writing. This disc gives us a representative sample of his output, with Polyphony's typical flawless execution. Whitacre's harmonies are dense and luxurious, and Layton clearly has a feel for how Whitacre writes. There's something so simple and confident and direct in the settings that I find myself kind of permanantly choked up while I listen.
I recommend, with the added glow of their being a new discovery for me.
A review of groups on YouTube performing Whitacre's "Sleep" (my favorite so far on this album) shows that what Polyphony have pulled off is very impressive indeed. I did not find any Polyphony on YouTube, but this recording gives a good sample of Whitacre's writing (and, for all that, this Indiana choir--either high school or college--does a great job; but Hyperion and Polyphony certainly do them one better). Polyphony can be sampled on iTunes.