Samuel Barber: Choral Music

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
Most of Samuel Barber's best-known work today is orchestral, but he wrote a great deal of choral music over his long career. Hearing a large amount of it in one place helps give depth to the common understanding of Barber as a Romantic melodist who would rather have lived half a century earlier. Various modes of tonal music in the twentieth century are represented here. The ultra-lyrical Barber of the "Adagio for strings, Op. 11," is heard in the arrangement of the works as an "Agnus Dei for chorus and piano." But there is also a rather official piece of hymnlike ceremonial music the "Chorale for Ascension Day", a nice bit of neo-Classic humor "The Monk and His Cat," from...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
Most of Samuel Barber's best-known work today is orchestral, but he wrote a great deal of choral music over his long career. Hearing a large amount of it in one place helps give depth to the common understanding of Barber as a Romantic melodist who would rather have lived half a century earlier. Various modes of tonal music in the twentieth century are represented here. The ultra-lyrical Barber of the "Adagio for strings, Op. 11," is heard in the arrangement of the works as an "Agnus Dei for chorus and piano." But there is also a rather official piece of hymnlike ceremonial music the "Chorale for Ascension Day", a nice bit of neo-Classic humor "The Monk and His Cat," from the "Hermit Songs, Op. 29", some operatic music, some choral art songs set to poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson, a Celtic-inspired set of pieces "Reincarnations, Op. 16", and a highly inventive neo-Renaissance work of the 1930s, "The Virgin Martyrs, Op. 8/1," in which Barber shows a personality absolutely distinct from that of Stravinsky or Vaughan Williams in similar pieces. "The Virgin Martyrs," for female chorus, is both the most interesting and among the most difficult on the disc; the young singers of the Choir of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne in Australia sometimes let you see and hear them sweat, but their spirits never flag. Their earnest sound doesn't reveal deep wells of expression in the texts, but the group evokes the choirs from community and educational organizations for which Barber would have written much of this music. There is nothing distractingly Australian about their diction. The biggest problem here is editorial; no texts are provided. English speakers will miss some of the words, while everyone else will have to search for texts and translations on the Internet. The non-explanatory apology given -- "We regret that we are unable to reprint the sung texts" -- solves nothing. Was this because copyright restrictions interfered? Plenty of other recordings have obtained permissions for similar collections of poetry. Or was it a cost issue? But then why would there be room for two inserts, in color, of advertising for other Naxos materials? The lack of availability of the texts seriously detracts from one's ability to enjoy this recording.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/29/2006
  • Label: Naxos American
  • UPC: 636943905326
  • Catalog Number: 8559053
  • Sales rank: 180,262

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map, for male chorus & 3 tympani, Op. 15 - Samuel Barber & Douglas Lawrence (5:30)
  2. 2 Vanessa, opera, Op. 32: Under the Willow Tree - Gian Carlo Menotti & Samuel Barber (3:23)
  3. 3 Twelfth Night, for 4 voices. Op. 42/1 - Samuel Barber & Douglas Lawrence (4:31)
  4. 4 To Be Sung on the Water, for 4 voices, Op. 42/2 - Samuel Barber & Louise Bogan (2:47)
  5. 5 Hermit Songs, for voice & piano, Op. 29: No. 8. The Monk and his Cat - Samuel Barber & Wystan Hugh Auden (2:13)
  6. 6 Agnus Dei, for chorus & organ/piano (arr. from 2nd mvt. of String Quartet), Op. 11 - Samuel Barber & Douglas Lawrence (5:54)
  7. 7–9 Reincarnations, 4 voices, Op. 16 - Samuel Barber & Douglas Lawrence (9:45)
  8. 8 The Virgin Martyrs, for SSAA, Op. 8/1 - Samuel Barber & Douglas Lawrence (3:39)
  9. 9 Let Down the Bars, O Death!, for SATB, Op.8/2 - Samuel Barber & Emily Dickinson (1:53)
  10. 10 Heaven-Haven, for chorus (arr. of song Op. 13/1) - Samuel Barber & Gerard Manley Hopkins (1:42)
  11. 11 Sure on this shining night, song for voice & piano (also arr. for voice, orch, chorus & piano), Op. 13/3 - James Agee & Samuel Barber (2:03)
  12. 12 Chorale for Ascension Day, for chorus, brass, tympani & organ - Samuel Barber & Douglas Lawrence (3:02)
  13. 13 Antony and Cleopatra, opera, Op. 40: On the death of Anthony - William Shakespeare & Samuel Barber (3:10)
  14. 14 Antony and Cleopatra, opera, Op. 40: On the death of Cleopatra - William Shakespeare & Samuel Barber (2:51)
  15. 15 God's Grandeur, for chorus - Samuel Barber & Gerard Manley Hopkins (7:34)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Choir of Ormond College Primary Artist
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