The New York Concert Singers; St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble; Judith Clurman, conductor
The New York Concert Singers's second disc on New World makes available on disc again two of Virgil Thomson's most beautiful choral works, Hymns from the Old South, and Four Songs to Poems of Thomas Campion. It also introduces the world-premiere recording of William Bolcom's The Mask as well as the definitive reading of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's setting of García Lorca poems for guitar and four-part chorus, Romancero Gitano.
Hymns from the Old South are loving arrangements for a capella choir of four of the hymn-tunes that Thomson was so fond of. The Four Songs to Poems of Thomas Campion make subtle use of an obbligato viola and clarinet and harp to recreate something of the sensuous blending of voices that one hears in an Elizabethan consort of viols. Thomson's famous sensitivity to the marriage of word and music, allied with his characteristically direct and communicative style, make these cycles essential listening for anyone with an interest in either the composer or choral music in general.
The Mask－a cycle of five poems drawn from the Harlem Renaissance and other periods of African-American literature－explores the theme of identity in settings for chorus and piano that combine popular and classical elements in Bolcom's signature style. Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads) inhabits the distinctly dark, mystical, and wild world of Lorca's imagination as filtered through Castelnuovo-Tedesco's own decidedly neo-Romantic sensibility.