Surprised by Beauty: Minimalism in Choral Music

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
Three of the composers represented on this collection, Surprised by Beauty: Minimalism in Choral Music, Gavin Bryars, Arvo Pärt, and William Duckworth, have been associated with minimalism or post-minimalism, but only the selections from Duckworth's "Southern Harmony" actually sound minimalist, as the term is commonly understood. The program notes make clear that the performers here have applied a different, broader definition to the word, one that has to do with the use of minimal musical materials, and by that standard, the works Pärt and Bryars easily qualify. Ruth Lomon's "Transport," a movement from her oratorio "Testimony of Witnesses," doesn't sound minimalist by ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
Three of the composers represented on this collection, Surprised by Beauty: Minimalism in Choral Music, Gavin Bryars, Arvo Pärt, and William Duckworth, have been associated with minimalism or post-minimalism, but only the selections from Duckworth's "Southern Harmony" actually sound minimalist, as the term is commonly understood. The program notes make clear that the performers here have applied a different, broader definition to the word, one that has to do with the use of minimal musical materials, and by that standard, the works Pärt and Bryars easily qualify. Ruth Lomon's "Transport," a movement from her oratorio "Testimony of Witnesses," doesn't sound minimalist by any definition, but it's an affecting piece that uses the writings of Holocaust survivors to paint a devastating picture of the victims' suffering. Bryars' a cappella "And so ended Kant's traveling in this world" uses a prose account of an incident at the end of the philosopher's life as reported by one of his contemporaries. The spare and understated setting beautifully mirrors the gentle melancholy of the text. Stylistically, it is very similar to Pärt's austere setting of the Beatitudes, which includes a discreet but effective organ part. The seven movements from Duckworth's massive "Southern Harmony," a classic post-minimalist treatment of music from the shape-note collections The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion 1835 and The Sacred Harp 1844 demonstrate the composer's marvelous inventiveness in retaining the character of the original pieces while subtly transforming them into recognizably contemporary pieces. Duckworth's characteristic play with the flipping of major and minor modes gives the attractive music a tasty piquancy. Three bonus tracks are devoted to performances of some of the hymn settings on which the Duckworth is based. It's good to hear the original hymns, but the ensemble ignores the research on performance practice of this eccentric repertoire and sings with what, in this case, is inappropriate refinement, blend, and open vocal production. The vocal ensemble Boston Secession, led by Jane Ring Frank, has a broad-ranging repertoire, but specializes in new music, and the group handles the very difficult music on this disc with exceptionally pure, focused tone and sensitive musicianship. The sound is clean and spacious.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/15/2008
  • Label: Cd Baby
  • UPC: 634479666131
  • Catalog Number: 5637231595
  • Sales rank: 317,793

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 And so ended Kant's travelling in this world, for vocal ensemble - Gavin Bryars & Pete Goldlust (6:28)
  2. 2 The Beatitudes, for chorus & organ - Arvo Pärt & Pete Goldlust (9:14)
  3. 3 Testimony of Witnesses, oratorio: Transport - John Saunders & Ruth Lomon (6:45)
  4. 4 Southern Harmony, 20 songs for double chorus: Holy Manna - William Duckworth & Pete Goldlust (2:52)
  5. 5 Southern Harmony, for double chorus: The Mouldering Vine - William Duckworth & Pete Goldlust (4:11)
  6. 6 Southern Harmony, for double chorus: Mear - William Duckworth & Pete Goldlust (1:21)
  7. 7 Southern Harmony, for double chorus: Wondrous Love - William Duckworth & Pete Goldlust (3:47)
  8. 8 Southern Harmony, for double chorus: Consolation - William Duckworth & Pete Goldlust (4:59)
  9. 9 Southern Harmony, for double chorus: War Department - William Duckworth & Pete Goldlust (2:55)
  10. 10 Southern Harmony, for double chorus: Hebrew Children - William Duckworth & Pete Goldlust (4:23)
  11. 11 Holy Manna (from The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion) - William Walker & Pete Goldlust (1:37)
  12. 12 Wondrous Love (from The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion) - William Walker & Pete Goldlust (1:37)
  13. 13 Hebrew Children (from The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion) - William Walker & Pete Goldlust (1:36)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Boston Secession Primary Artist
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