Gramophone  | September, 2013
Anniversaries & Messages
Simon Carrington | Yale Schola Cantorum
Delos F DE3436 (52’ • DDD • T/t)
Recorded live at Christ Church Episcopal, New Haven, CT, December 9, 2011
Victoria Missa Alma redemptoris mater; Theofanidis Messages to Myself; JS Bach Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf, BWV226; Liszt Ave Maria; David Lang again (after Ecclesiastes)

Yale’s choir honours local talent and composer birthdays

The Yale Schola Cantorum pays homage to four composers on its captivating new disc, ‘Anniversaries & Messages’, marking the 400th anniversary of the birth of Victoria, the bicentennial of Liszt’s birth and the gifts of two Yale faculty members, David Lang and Christopher Theofanidis. Also included is a motet by Bach, who never needs milestones or university affiliations to be celebrated.

The programme’s appeal stems in part from the variety of texture and style achieved by interspersing Bach, Lang and Liszt amid sections of Victoria’s Missa Alma redemptoris mater and Theofanidis’s Messages to Myself. By the time the ensemble returns to the diverse worlds of Victoria or Theofanidis, our ears have been drawn into other realms of unaccompanied choral enchantment.

Victoria’s Mass abounds in interweaving lines for two four-voice choirs that convey reverence and ecstasy in equal measure. Four poets (Walt Whitman, Rumi, Amy Beth Kirsten and WB Yeats) are the inspiration for Theofanidis’s cycle, which unfolds in a series of soaring phrases and velvety dissonances.

Lang’s again achieves mesmerising beauty through slowly descending motifs and layered lines wedded to the composer’s text (after Ecclesiastes). A similar ruminative quality, with added rapture, pervades Liszt’s setting of Ave Maria, while Bach’s motet, Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf, is an occasion for lilting and penetrating urgency.
Each score contains richly expressive material that tests the concentration and cohesion of its interpreters. As led with meticulous attention to words, balances and harmonic implications by Simon Carrington, the choir’s former director, the performances are fresh, articulate and poised.

~ Donald Rosenberg