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Eric Whitacre: Marimba Quartets

Joby Burgess, Sam Wilson, Calum Huggan, Rob Farrer (marimba & vibraphone) (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

Eric Whitacre
Marimba Quartets – Lux aurumque; October; A Boy and a Girl; Sleep
Joby Burgess, Sam Wilson, Calum Huggan, Rob Farrer (marimba & vibraphone)
Signum Classics SIGCD625   21.29 mins


Mostly popular in the UK for his gently glowing choral music, Nevada-born Eric Whitacre (b1970) shot to fame in 2010 with the Virtual Choir project. Involving 185 online singers from around the world, their performance of  Lux Aurumque, a short SATB work from his album Light and Gold (the title in English), became a YouTube sensation.

Asked by Whitacre to arrange some of his choral music for marimba quartet, percussionist Joby Burgess began with the album, selecting Lux Aurumque, A Boy and A Girl and Sleep. Alongside them on this short, EP-length release, Burgess adds two vibraphones to the quartet for October, originally written for concert-band and subsequently arranged by Whitacre for choir.

Each is performed with balance and control by Burgess, Sam Wilson, Calum Huggan and Rob Farrer, the slow-changing harmonies rendered with a soft-focus, tremolo warmth. Indeed the quartet sounds uncannily in places like a choir of humming voices, with Sleep proving the most harmonically interesting work and, in arrangement, the subtlest display of textural sleight-of-hand.

But it’s hard to escape the underlying sense of a franchise at work and, with a lack of variety and invention, the balmy ebb and flow quickly palls. Steph Power