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REVIEW: Reincarnations: A Century of American Choral Music


Donald Rosenberg

Gramophone (April 2015)


Seraphic Fire apply bounteous vocal heat to the music on their new disc, 'Reincarnations', a survey of American choral music from the late 19th century to today. The recording takes its name from the cycle of three songs Samuel Barber composed while a student at the Curtis Institute of Music. They are models of what might be termed an American style -- poetic, proud, occasionally rooted in folk traditions. 

What sets the recording apart is Seraphic Fire's attention to recent compositions. Of the 12 works, seven here receive world-premiere recordings. They range from Nico Muhly's intricately layered and oscillating I cannot attain unto it and Shawn Crouch's shining Light of Common Day to Dan Forrest's richly expressive Good night, dear heart and Colin Britt's fervent As there are flowers, with its subterranean bass-lines. 

Dominick DiOrio's I Am is a haunting weave of clustered lines suggesting heaven, the voice of an angel emerging near the end. The aura is alternately hushed and urgent in Jake Runestad's Fear not, dear friend, while mild dissonances give way to serene gestures in Frank Ticheli's Earth Song. Following two traditional tunes from the 19th century, the final portion of Paul Crabtree's cycle The Valley of Delight achieves glowing life through soaring lines and lilting rhythms. The disc is rounded out by Morten Lauridsen's Mid-Winter Songs, eloquent settings of five poems by Robert Graves that juxtapose the heraldic with the lyrical, and occasionally stop singing for impassioned piano solos (superbly played by Anna Fateeva). 

The South-Florida-based ensemble brings mellifluous and crystalline artistry to everything as led by their Artistic Director, Patrick Dupré Quigley.

dominick smiling and looking out