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Anne Midgette
The Washington Post, December 2010

The Washington Chorus’s energetic conductor took on yet another job this year, leading music at New York’s Trinity Church. He also released this disk of his own choral music, which is pleasant on the ear, if sometimes anodyne.

Lindsay Koob
American Record Guide, July 2010

Canada’s dependably competent and expressive Elora Festival Singers pay glowing and heartfelt tribute to this very worthwhile music: no surprise, since Wachner remains a prominent fixture of the Canadian music scene as a professor at Montreal’s Magill University. The composer could hardly have asked for better champions. Naxos sees to its customary solid sound engineering, and Wachner’s own lucid notes grace the booklet…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Bryson Winchester
The WholeNote, May 2010

Not quite a household name, American composer/conductor Julian Wachner is now in his early 40s and has built himself a stylistic reputation for eclecticism. This recording by the Elora Festival Singers is an example of just how broad Wachner’s stylistic embrace can be. It is also another example of the artistically tenacious style that has become the hallmark of the EFS.

Because we most often associate a composer with an identifiable vocabulary or language, it’s a bit odd to find someone so stylistically diverse yet so secure in his writing. Wachner’s command of choral techniques and effects is solid and polished. The EFS’s ability to meet the exacting demands of this music makes this recording altogether remarkable.

Wachner describes his choral writing as “text-driven”. How important and effective this is becomes evident as one plays through the 19 tracks of sacred and secular works. Poetic texts by E.E. Cummings and Rilke deliver fanciful, sensitive and experimental moments always linked to a detectably romantic undercurrent.

Wachner’s sacred music, by contrast, may appeal more to the structured expectations of its audience but is no less inventive than his art song. Perhaps the most colourful work on this recording is his Missa Brevis. Each of its four sections is clearly cast in a unique form with considerable variation in ensemble colour and tempo. Most importantly, Wachner never loses touch with the “other-worldliness” that needs to be at the heart of all sacred music.

Naxos has produced a fine recording with the EFS, which bodes well for their projected “complete choral music” series…

Gapplegate Music Review, April 2010

…based on volume one of the Complete Choral Music (Naxos) by Julian Wachner (b. 1969), there is excellent work being done today. The Elora Festival Singers under Noel Edison sing like angels; they do complete justice to Wachner’s music. It has a touch of the aural voicings of Paert and Reich, but not in terms of style. Wachner uses the tang of modern harmonies as sound color. His music is declamatory or quiescent, depending on mood, and there is a minimalist touch here and there.

Mostly, though, it is Wachner’s extension of choral tradition via his own contemporary vision that strikes this listener. The nine works presented on this volume one have depth and integrity. Here’s a composer who feels completely at home with a cappella choir, or voices with organ accompaniment. It is a very refreshing listen. The music has moments of true beauty. Bring on the next volume!

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2010

I can now add the name of Julian Wachner to my list of composers in the United States who have returned to traditional values. Born in Hollywood in 1969, he has become one of the nations most valued musicians offering a wide spectrum of music. In his erudite programme note he speaks of his desire to tread a personal path, though I do find it also being taken by a new generation on both sides of the Atlantic. It is mainly tonal; will fall easily on the ear of the most conservative traditionalist, and offers rich rewards to performers. There is abundant lyricism; elements of minimalism; plenty of interestingly tricky rhythms, and athletic choral writing. Certainly his early career in the church is evident in both sacred and secular scores that have similar stylistic characteristics. It reminded me of much we hear today from young English composers, or maybe the style evolved in the opposite direction. In length there are two major scores, the Rilke Songs and Missa Brevis. Highly descriptive, the six poems of Rainer Rilke deal with birds and animals, Wachner treating them with an almost reverential atmosphere, though he does introduce clashing harmonies to highlight a point. The Missa Brevis is in four short sections to the Roman Catholic Mass, the Gloria having a jazzy approach. The remainder of the disc is given to six short pieces, mostly sacred, with the award-winning choral song-cycle, Sometimes I Feel Alive, as the remaining extended score. Now one of Naxos’s most prolific choral groups, the Canadian-based Elora Festival Singers show their technical prowess in moments of challenging vocal writing, and are suitably creamy in music of a slower pulse.

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