Copland, Ives,Morten Lauridsen etc

COMPOSERS: Copland,Ives,Morten Lauridsen etc
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: Copland and his American Contemporaries
WORKS: Twentieth-Century Masters,
Vol. 3: works by Copland, Ives,
Morten Lauridsen etc
PERFORMER: Choir of New College Oxford/Edward Higginbottom
CATALOGUE NO: AV2086
The two main works here were both written in the mid-to-late 1940s, on the East and West Coasts respectively. Copland’s In the Beginning, on words from Genesis, was designed for student mixed voices, and the New College boy trebles can’t quite encompass its full range of dynamics and expression from whispered pp to the final ringing ffff. But this challenging piece is done with impressive precision of tuning and attack, proper care for the text, and clear projection of the solo part by the young mezzo-soprano Katherine Bond. For his austere setting of the Mass, Stravinsky expressed a preference for children’s voices on the upper lines, and that’s justified by the freshness and openness of the Choir’s treble-led sound. The wind ensemble is incisive, and well integrated with the voices in a first-rate recording.

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The rest of the programme is a rather odd mixture. Ned Rorem’s sympathetic settings of Gerard Manley Hopkins stand out, while 1990s anthems by Adolphus Hailstork, Libby Larsen and Morten Lauridsen all sound somewhat anodyne alongside Charles’s Ives’s rugged Psalm 67 of a century earlier. But the performances all testify to the exceptionally high standards Edward Higginbottom has maintained at New College over the last 30 years. Anthony Burton