NOTUS: Of Radiance and Refraction – Music by Claude Baker, Sven-David Sandström, Dominick DiOrio, Igor Stravinsky, John Gibson, Aaron Travers – Performers: NOTUS, Dominick DiOrio (director), Zorá String Quartet Innova CD 1 10-2 (9/28/18)TT: 73:15 ****:
This CD is is a fine collection of choral music by contemporary composers. This is the first commercial album on the Innova label, NOTUS: Of Radiance and Refraction, which includes five world premiere recordings by Indiana University faculty composers.
NOTUS was originally founded in 1980 as the Indiana University Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, and it was renamed in 2013 after the selection of its fourth director, Dominick DiOrio. The choir’s new name was inspired by Notos, the Greek god of the south wind.
Many of the works on this disc are world premieres. As I was listening I had to keep reminding myself that I was listening to a student ensemble. The quality of the performances, and the commitment to the music are obvious here.
One of the standout works, in my view, is Virginia: The West. Composer Aaron Travers does a lovely job using Walt Whitman’s battlefield poetry for unaccompanied choir.
I also enjoyed Sven-David Sandström’s The Giver of Stars, a beautiful meditation on Amy Lowell’s words.
The music is not all choral. There are electronics, percussion, and some string sounds as well. They blend into a very agreeable whole.
This is a very refreshing disc and the recording, done in the Aurer Concert Hall in Bloomington, Indiana serves the music well, with a clear recording of the voices, and some deep bass and delicate strings when they appear.
This isn’t a disc for the casual classical music lover, but it is an excellent collection for those that love contemporary music and also first rate choral performances. With several world premiere compositions on board, it’s going to be a great experience for many listeners.
Stravinsky Refracted, for soloists, chorus, string quartet & organ
Pieces (3) for string quartet
In Flight for chorus & electronics
Virginia: The West, for chorus
The Giver of Stars for chorus
Hor che’l ciel e la terra for chorus & 4 percussionists