Vaughan Williams, Barber, Bart—k

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Barber,Bartok,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Dona nobis pacem; Prayers of Kierkegaard; Cantata profana
PERFORMER: Carmen Pelton (soprano), Nathan Gunn (baritone), Richard Clement (tenor) Atlanta SO & Chorus/Robert Shaw
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80479
Robert Shaw has long been regarded as one of the USA’s finest choral trainers and conductors. Early in his career, he was Toscanini’s chorus master, but for the past decade or more he has been slowly surveying for Telarc the major choral-orchestral repertoire as conductor with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, which he founded in 1970. Now in his early eighties, his grip is as strong as ever.

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Barber, Bartók and Vaughan Williams are not obvious bedfellows, and their works have little in common thematically or dramatically, two works of deep spirituality being divided by one of self-confessed profanity. Shaw himself conducted the Bartók’s US premiere in 1952: it is sung here in the English translation he made then. The Barber sets four texts by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, moving from a chant-like opening to a close reminiscent of ‘Medea’s Dance of Vengeance’; the Vaughan Williams finds him returning to the poetry of Walt Whitman for his great anti-war cantata of the Thirties.

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The choral singing has real bite and the disc provides a showcase for some of the USA’s rising vocal soloists, most notably Nathan Gunn, a sonorous, intelligent baritone in the Thomas Hampson mould. Matthew Rye