4. Ev'ry Christmas I Hear Bells
5. Sleep, Holy Infant, Sleep
6. Why We Sing at Christmas
7. Precious Gift, His Wondrous Birth
8. The Commandments
9. Psalm 23
The Pacific Mozart Ensemble
Lynne Morrow - Conductor (tracks 1-7, 9, 11)
Richard Grant - Conductor (tracks 8, 10)
Kymry Esainko - Piano (tracks 4-6, 9)
Quartet San Francisco (tracks 1-3)
Jeremy Cohen - Violin
Alisa Rose - Violin
Keith Lawrence - Viola
Michelle Djokic - Cello
First, a disclaimer is necessary. This is not a jazz disc. That it is included in the section of jazz reviews is purely serendipitous. The link of course is the composer Dave Brubeck, who penned such jazz standards as Blue Rondo à la Turk, In Your Own Sweet Way and The Duke. This disc is simply an extension of his composing abilities in a musical sphere that complements his jazz-based talents. Now in his 90th year, Brubeck the musician shows no signs of slowing down and is already booked into many of the 2010 summer jazz festivals.
All Brubeck's compositions on this disc would be welcomed at any High Anglican or Roman Catholic service, as they have all the requisites for sacred music: solemnity and piety. Leading off with Canticles, this three-part invention offers his sombre musical interpretation in a choral setting, of the Annunciation, Nativity and Crucifixion with all the grandeur and ecclesiastical gravity that can be attributed to these key events in the Christian ritual. The four next selections are all Christmas-oriented and may be somewhat out of place on the disc but nevertheless are beautifully constructed and sung with devotion by the Pacific Mozart Ensemble. None of these pieces could be classified as hummable but nonetheless they exhibit the necessary fidelity to their seasonal nature.
Of the remaining compositions, the two most profound are The Commandments and Credo. With the former, there is the recitation of those Christian tenets offered in a variety of formats such as a rondo and chant but with gospel tinges, all of which assist in exhibiting the density of the piece. Credo is sung in Latin which although classified as a "dead language" nevertheless seems to take on wondrous qualities when used in this setting and gives the proper gravity to this polytonal interpretation.
Finally, this disc is not going to compare to Brubeck's signature album Time Out in terms of popularity or accessibility. It is a very dense offering and requires a commitment on the part of the listener to seek out its pleasures.