, April 2001
"This splendid work is not likely to please those who believe that music written today must be thorny, intellectually challenging throughout, and never tuneful or songful. The truth is that there is room for a wide range of musics in our lives if we would all simply drop our pet hobbyhorses and find that it is possible to enjoy, say, Orff's Carmina Burana and Carter's Variations for Orchestra. Not that this is as simplistic as Carmina Burana. It has more complexity and variety than that.
"Naxos gives us some information about Thomas Beveridge (he studied with Nadia Boulanger, Randall Thompson, and Walter Piston), but not his age. From his bio I would guess him to be in the neighborhood of 50. Although he has apparently been fairly prolific, this was my introduction to his music.
"Yizkor is the Jewish memorial service given in memory of those who died thus the title Yizkor Requiem gives away Beveridge's unusual concept of combining memorial services of the Jewish and Catholic religions. The work was inspired by the death of the composer's father in 1991; when his mother died a year and a half later he dedicated the work to the memory of both of his parents. His father had a strong ecumenical background, described in the composer's own very helpful notes. It is easy to see how this inspired Beveridge with his idea.
"The influence of Jewish liturgical music seems strong throughout the piece, particularly given the very strong presence of the cantor. But the various musical influences blend into a very persuasive whole, and the work doesn't sound like a pastiche at all. It flows through its one hour with momentum and a sense of organic growth. The final section, which combines the Mourner's Kaddish and Lord's Prayer, is extraordinarily moving.
"The performance is terrific. Norman Scribner invests energy and commitment into every phrase, and his Choral Arts Society sings with clear diction, spot-on intonation, a rich tone, and a beautiful blend of sound. The orchestra is, I presume, a Washington freelance based group; it plays very well. Given that this is a live performance, with no indication of patch sessions for editing, one has to be impressed by the general precision and accuracy. There are very small untidy choral entrances on occasion, but they are few and far between. Soprano Christine Goerke's voice floats and soars beautifully (her singing in the Lux Aeterna is ethereal), and Susanna Poretzky's warm, solid mezzo is another asset. Both ladies sing as if they believe deeply in the score. Albterto Mizrahi has been a leading cantor in the Chicago area for many years, and has a concert and operatic background as well. While one has to admit that his voice sounds a bit worn when he pushes it, his remarkably accurate and incisive rhythms, his genuine vocal presence, and the intense ardor with which he invests his music all combine to make his performance a major asset.
"The recorded sound is not ideal: It seems cramped, a bit on the dry side, and somewhat congested at climaxes (even with distortion at one or two points). But it doesn't get in the way. Naxos supplies full texts and translations. This is an important contribution from Naxos's American Classics series, a work of genuine melodic appeal and power."