Psalm 23 (cantata from Symphony No. 12)
A Rose Tree Blossoms
Jesus Lover of my Soul
Jesus Christ is Risen Today
The Lord's Prayer
Peace be Multiplied
O for a Shout of Sacred Joy
Out of the Depths
O God Our Help in Ages Past
Boys and Girls Choir and Orchestra of St John's Episcopal Cathedral
Eric Plutz (organ)
Donald Pearson (conductor)
rec 6-8 Mar 1995, Denver
DELOS DE 3176
This CD further deepens our knowledge of the music of the late ALAN
HOVHANESS. The devotional nature of the music does not detract from its capacity
to give pleasure when listened to from a more sophisticated standpoint. The
Magnificat is the single largest item taking just short of half the playing
time. It buzzes and rumbles with pointillistic effect, is suggestive of Sibelian
springs in the wilderness (track 7), stridulates like a cloud of locusts
(track 9) and is graciously tuneful (listen to the flute in Suscepit Israel.
The cantorial solo trumpet in Gloria Patri calms and heals all.
The soprano's wavering note production is a blemish but tolerable. The three
male soloists are admirably steady. The choir has a childlike purity of tone
well deployed in music of such spirituality. In track 11 they embrace the
same rustling hubbub as in Holst's Hymn of Jesus.
Hovhaness was known as a prolific symphonist. His Twelfth was written in
1960 and incorporates a setting of Psalm 23 played here. To long-held high
notes from the orchestral violins the choir intone the Psalm. Then comes
the solo trumpet and the taped sounds of a waterfall. 'The Valley of the
Shadow of Death' takes the sinister music of Walton's moving finger from
Belshazzar's Feast as its departure point. While the Magnificat
could easily have drifted from the liturgical Vaughan Williams this is
more exotic and uses avant-garde effects - usually restricted to the orchestra.
The remaining quarter of an hour of the disc is taken by eight devotional
a cappella anthems or hymns with organ. Patrick Hadley, Gustav Holst
and Herbert Howells could easily be the mentors although the oriental slide
of O for a Shout of Sacred Joy is more certainly of Eastern origin.
Music of healing sung with feeling and of as much interest to dedicated Hovhaness
fans as to the even greater host of choral enthusiasts. I strongly recommend
that choir conductors obtain this disc and think about the Hovhaness Psalm
or Magnificat next time they are tempted by a Rutter morsel.
Good liner notes. A most attractive disc if somewhat short on playing time.