This recording features
the choir of Westminster Choir College,
which is a part of Rider University,
New Jersey. All the members are students
studying for a career in music though,
in fact, as the recordings were made
over separate sessions, the personnel
of the choir will not be the same throughout
this recital. That scarcely matters,
for one thing that strikes the listener
immediately is the consistency of the
singing, which is of very high quality
throughout. Joseph Flummerfelt, who
retired as conductor of this choir in
2004 after no less than 33 years in
charge, is clearly a choral trainer
of the first rank.
The recital here recorded
originated in a radio programme broadcast
on September 11 2002. We read in the
liner notes that this programme "was
designed to reflect not only on the
events in America one year earlier,
but on the causes for war and unrest
extending back into the twentieth century,
and on our hopes for a happier future."
Given this premise such works as Ives’
iconoclastic and typically quirky (but
very eloquent) setting of Psalm 90 and
Barber’s Agnus Dei, which at
first sight appear strange bedfellows,
sit quite well together, I think.
The Ives is an extremely
demanding piece but its difficulties
hold no terrors for Flummerfelt’s singers,
who perform it not just with assurance
but also with great conviction. No less
demanding, but in a very different way,
is the aforementioned Barber piece.
This, too, is done very well though
one aspect of the performance perplexes
me somewhat. The piece is, of course,
a re-working for a capella chorus
of the celebrated Adagio for Strings.
I am rather at a loss to think why in
this account the singers are supplemented
by a string ensemble of two each of
violins and violas, a cello and a double
bass. The decision can’t have been taken
because the choir required any support
since manifestly they don’t. I can only
think that the idea was to enrich the
texture but that seems a trifle unnecessary.
That said, the strings are fairly unobtrusive.
The other psalm setting
on the disc is one of Bernstein’s Chichester
Psalms in which the soloist is a
member of the American Boychoir. He
sings very well, with clear, unforced
tone and a very pure sound. The baritone
in the two Vaughan Williams items is
similarly pleasing. His tone is forward,
every note is placed right in the centre
and his diction is admirably clear.
The intense chromatic
harmonies of Schoenberg’s ambitious
Christmas setting, Friede auf Erden,
present another huge challenge but Flummerfelt
and his singers deliver the piece very
well indeed. The textures, though often
very complex, are admirably clear and
the choral tone is full and rich, even
when, as often happens, the singers
are required to sing at the extremes
of their registers.
I’ve only singled out
a few of the items for specific comment
but readers can be assured that to my
ears there isn’t a weak link in the
programme. Everything is done with fine
musicianship and expert choral artistry.
This is a hybrid SACD
but I’ve only been able to listen to
it as a conventional CD. I found the
sound to be exceptionally clear and
natural with just the right amount of
space and resonance round the voices.
The choir is presented in very truthful
and musical sound.
There are concise but
useful notes in English, French and
German and full texts are provided together
with a translation (English only) where
This is a fine choral
CD which will give much pleasure if
the eclectic but thoughtful programme