Eric Whitacre: Choral Music

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Whitacre
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: When David Heard; Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine; Her Sacred Spirit Soars etc
PERFORMER: Elora Festival Singers/Noel Edison; Leslie De’Ath (piano), Carol Bauman (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559677

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Despite Eric Whitacre’s enviable popularity among performing musicians (sheet music sales exceed a million, and he’s only 40), there’s just one other CD exclusively devoted to his music at present. Irksome, therefore, that eight of the 11 tracks on this new Naxos release should overlap with that earlier disc, Polyphony’s outstanding Cloudburst collection on Hyperion. Still, on their own terms these Elora Festival Singers performances are highly commendable.

The confidently welling crescendo at the opening of the e.e. cummings setting ‘i thank you God for most this amazing day’ is unravelled with natural fluidity, betokening a choir long on experience and comfortable in its own collective skin.

The mainly vibrato-less singing is warmly blended, with spot-on pitching, and a welcome focus on elucidating text and structure without gimmicky effect-making. 

This sense of lightly-worn discipline is particularly obvious in the fractured repetitions of ‘my son’ in ‘When David Heard’, precisely weighted and located but not pernickety. Perhaps enunciation could be more sharply etched in places, but tastes in that area differ.

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Tim Sharp’s booklet essay is technical, but excellent on explaining why Whitacre’s vocal music is so appealing to singers and listeners. Those unfamiliar with it will find this disc an excellent starting-point. Terry Blain