COMPOSERS: Alexander,Arlen,Berlin,Conte,Evans,Gabrieli etc
WORKS: From Thomas Tallis to Bill Evans – a Chanticleer Portrait
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-96515-2 DDD
There are so many superb qualities to this Teldec disc, I hesitate where to begin. Let me give you a taste: it’s inventive; it’s funny; it’s moving; it’s beautiful. And it’s virtually flawless. Chanticleer is a 12-strong all-male a cappella vocal group with a stunning purity of sound. The countertenors reach up to an almost sopranino range; the deep bass is a phenomenon in himself.
Their harmonic empathy is breathtaking. They hone Tallis and Gibbons like period instruments and make Strauss feel like barbershop. Their Irving Berlin sounds as if Lennie Bernstein himself were conducting from the clouds. Their gospel sears the soul. Joseph Jennings, their director, is an inspired arranger (as in Straight Street; or Bill Evans revamped à la Meredith Monk). The uppermost solos (Christopher Frizsche) are melting.
Chanticleer’s chief show-stopper (after Shenandoah) is John Rutter’s gorgeous arrangement of O Waly, Waly. Following that, Rutter’s own Cambridge Singers – plenty of talent in the lower voices, but unmarshalled – sound oddly pedestrian.
Their latest issue has its moments: Guerrero’s Duo Seraphim makes a cheerful start; rare Mendelssohn, and Allegri’s Miserere, fare well. But raucousness infects not just Spem in alium (Tallis) but their Brahms and Bach motets too. The antiphony is nicely captured, but the sound becomes increasingly dire.