Eric Whitacre Water Night

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COMPOSERS: Eric Whitacre
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Eric Whitacre Water Night
WORKS: Alleluia; Equus; Oculi Omnium; The River Cam; Her sacred spirit soars; Water Night; Goodnight Moon; When David Heard; Sleep My Child
PERFORMER: Eric Whitacre Singers/Eric Whitacre
CATALOGUE NO: 2796323

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Most Eric Whitacre CDs are of his widely popular choral music, so it’s good that Water Night, this new collection, includes some of the orchestral output. The title track itself is given in a string version, its idiom a comfortably blended mixture of Mahler-lite and Barber’s Adagio.

In The River Cam the template is English pastoral (it gestated from a term Whitacre spent at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University). Vaughan Williams and Elgar are acknowledged points of reference, and the mellowly lyrical lines spun for solo cello are feelingly played here by Julian Lloyd Webber, for whose 60th birthday the piece was written.

Equus is more upbeat, chugging along in a style Whitacre calls dynamic ‘minimalism’ (defined as ‘repetitive patterns’ which ‘don’t get boring’). Think Leonard Bernstein refracted through Philip Glass and John Adams, and you’ve got it.

Of the choral works, When David heard, at 17-plus minutes, is by far the biggest, and remains one of Whitacre’s most intensely expressive pieces. It’s raptly performed here with the composer conducting, and is the high point of this particular programme.

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Terry Blain