Bolcom, Thomson, Castelnuovo-Tedesco

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bolcom,Castelnuovo-Tedesco,Thomson
LABELS: New World
WORKS: Romancero gitano
PERFORMER: New York Concert Singers, St Luke’s Chamber Ensemble/Judith Clurman
The New York Concert Singers is an outfit of 26 professionals which has been going since 1988, and its internal chording and rhythm is pretty impressive, though it doesn’t always stay in tune with the piano in the Bolcom. Here, the blended sound reminded me of Singers Unlimited, the close harmony jazz group which achieved its effects by multi-track recording in the Seventies. And jazz isn’t far away for much of this work, with its blues and ragtime-influenced numbers, contrasted with the uncompromising dissonance of some of the piano writing. The problem is that these styles don’t really cohere over the course of the piece, and the overall impression is one of a ragbag. At the other extreme, the two works by Virgil Thomson are self-effacing to a degree that becomes tedious, even in a short period of time. The Campion settings have slightly more going for them, with their attractive accompaniment for clarinet, viola and harp, but the Hymns might have escaped from the pages of Ancient and Modern. It’s left for Castelnuovo-Tedesco to raise the temperature in his Lorca settings, where the very Spanish preoccupations of passion, religion and death are well-characterised in the idiomatic guitar playing of Benjamin Verdery and good solo work from members of the chorus. Martin Cotton