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WHITACRE, E.: Choral Music (Elora Festival Singers, Edison)

Naxos 8.559677

   Classical Net, November 2014
   PaperCity, December 2011
   WFMT (Chicago), December 2010
   American Record Guide, November 2010
   BBC Music Magazine, October 2010
   The WholeNote, October 2010
   Spirit of Change, October 2010
   Gramophone, September 2010
   The Classical Review, August 2010
   The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 2010, July 2010
   Dilettante, June 2010
   The Dallas Morning News, June 2010
   Winnipeg Free Press, June 2010
   WQXR (New York), June 2010
   Cyclic Defrost, June 2010
   Toronto Star, June 2010
   Time Out New York, June 2010
   National Public Radio, June 2010
   The Buffalo News, June 2010, June 2010
   Audiophile Audition, June 2010
   Balaam’s Music, May 2010, May 2010

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Brian Wigman
Classical Net, November 2014

…these are Whitacre’s finest works in splendid sound.

The sound is absolutely spectacular, the packaging is attractive, the conducting is thoroughly idiomatic, and the singing is first-rate…I have no hesitation in recommending this disc as your starting point for discovering this highly distinctive choral music. © 2014 Classical Net Read complete review

Colin Eatock
PaperCity, December 2011

Eric Whitacre is currently a star in the choral world, and this disc certainly helps to explain why. His music is rich, resonant and entirely suited to the choral medium. Mind you, it helps that the choir recorded on this work—Noel Edison’s the Elora Festival Singers—is one of the finest vocal ensembles on the continent.

…Whitacre’s choral textures shines radiantly. This is meditative music, but it also has an underlying power in it. © 2011 Houston Chronicle Read complete review

Lisa Flynn
WFMT (Chicago), December 2010

Eric Whitacre is now the unquestioned superstar of American choral composers. His marriage of poetry with beauty of sound creates a unique and enchanting sonic world. A wide selection of his most well-known music is brilliantly captured on this CD by the Elora Festival Singers of Canada.

Lindsay Koob
American Record Guide, November 2010

the Elora Festival Singers shine here from start to finish. Excellent recorded sound reveals their every note and nuance, and the folding booklet contains excellent and revealing notes…at last we have a top-notch Whitacre collection for the discriminating but budget-conscious choral fan.

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

Terry Blain
BBC Music Magazine, October 2010

The Elora Festival Singers performances are highly commendable…the mainly vibrato-less singing is warmly blended with spot-on pitching, and a welcome focus on elucidating text and structure without gimmicky effect-making…this disc [is] an excellent starting point.

Roger Knox
The WholeNote, October 2010

This recording will appeal to admirers of well-crafted choral music that judiciously incorporates contemporary musical techniques. American composer Eric Whitacre (b. 1970) has cultivated a style where added notes and tone clusters are the norm in higher registers. With careful attention to pitch content, texture, register, and dynamics, seldom is an unattractive sound heard. Though based in innovations by other composers great and small, Whitacre’s music shows special artistry in focusing technique to ends. In Her Sacred Spirit Soars, simply thickening and thinning sonorities as pitches rise and fall conveys the sacred spirit of the music’s long-breathed motion. I particularly like the mystical sense in Lux aurumque (Light of Gold), about which the composer aptly speaks of spiritual processes: “blossoming” and “surrendering” to light.

There are effective piano-accompanied settings, of E.E. Cummings’ little tree with its ecstatic ending, and of Octavio Paz’s Little Birds which includes whistling, repeated consonants and quasi-aleatoric (random) singing. I prefer the sensitivity to mood in the short lyrical works; When David Heard and percussion-enhanced Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine have longer minimalist passages I find less convincing.

Noel Edison’s splendid Elora Festival Singers are up to Eric Whitacre’s every challenge. Perfectly pitched, vibrato-less sopranos in multiple parts produce sounds of wonderful life. All sections contribute to the tour-de-force with well-balanced sonorous blocks and long-decaying tones evoking reverberant space. Which brings me to close by noting the fine production and engineering by Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft of this important recording.

Jason Victor Serinus
Spirit of Change, October 2010

Even before his YouTube Virtual Choir recording of “Lux aurumque” (Light of gold) became an international hit, Nevada-born Eric Whitacre, 40, had become the golden boy of American choral music. The reasons for his fame are abundantly clear on this new, budget CD from Naxos. His music, with its easily assimilated, almost otherworldly strangeness and ethereal beauty, touches a deep core within our being.

Naxos’s recording with the Elora Festival Singers of Elora, Ontario, Canada under their founder Noel Edison, presents a representative sampling of Whitacre’s work. They include “Sleep,” a mostly soft, haunting journey that comes over you and, almost without your knowing, inhabits your every cell, and “Lux arumque,” which is almost too gorgeous for words...the Elora Festival Singers boast a truly radiant soprano section that can easily float the highest notes. They also have wonderful control of dynamics...the beauty of the performances, and the spiritual elevation of Whitacre’s music is self-recommending.

Malcolm Riley
Gramophone, September 2010

A must-have recording of the honest, transparent music of Eric Whitacre

It is largely due to the discerning advocacy of Stephen Layton and Polyphony that the choral music of Eric Whitacre (b1970) has enjoyed such a meteoric success in the UK in recent years. Several of the items on their “Cloudburst” disc (Hyperion) are also included in this equally polished release.

Stylistically Whitacre takes up where Vaughan Williams left off (Three Shakespearean Songs), mixed with a dose of Holst’s triadic shifting block chords and nods to Stanford (The Bluebird), Tavener, Pärt et al. He is an unashamed tonalist who relishes fluidity and smoothness in his melodic lines which, while not particularly memorable in a Rutteresque way, lie easily on the ear.

The fresh-sounding Toronto-based Elora Festival Singers obviously love this optimistic and transparently honest music. Their blend is superb, with strong—almost reedy—bass notes supporting the organic clusters which blossom regularly. Tuning is always spot-on and Noel Edison draws a wide dynamic range from his singers. Climaxes are never coarse and the church acoustic is used to sublime effect.

Shorter pieces, such as This Marriage, Lux aurumque and Little Birds, are perfect miniatures. The latter features some atmospheric whistling and vocalising. Some commentators have criticised Whitacre for being too repetitive in his longer pieces. However, I for one found his 13-minute treatment of When David Heard to be perfectly formed and fulfilling, and consider Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine (rather atypical of his usual style) to be a masterpiece. This stimulating and superb disc is a bargain and an absolute “must have”.

Lawrence A Johnson
The Classical Review, August 2010

In the last decade Eric Whitacre has quietly become one of the most performed American composers at home and increasingly so abroad, an impressive achievement for one who has just turned 40 this year.

Whitacre, who studied with John Corigliano, has written music for wind band, orchestra and even an eclectic pop musical, Paradise Lost, “combining trance, ambient and techno electronica with choral, cinematic, and operatic traditions.” But it is his a cappella choral music for which he is primarily known, and this present disc makes a fair sampler of his works in the genre.

Whitacre is a melodic vocal composer in the style of Morten Lauridsen and John Tavener. As pointed out in Tim Sharp’s fine booklet notes, it is his specific employment of secundal harmonies using the standard interval as a source of resolving consonance rather than passing dissonance that gives Whitacre’s music its unique imprint.

Under Noel Edison’s direction, the Toronto-based Elora Festival Singers display a fluent, smoothly blended sound, well suited to Whitacre’s expansive phrases and shimmering harmonies. In the gorgeous opening selection Her Sacred Spirit Soars, the rising steps paint Charles Anthony Silvestri’s words with great skill, the work sung with pure ensemble tone and expressive feeling. Other highlights include the spare separated lines of A Boy and a Girl and the glowing vocalise of its coda; the lovely miniature This Marriage, to a Rumi text; and little tree, where E.E. Cummings’ text is enhanced by the minimalist piano writing and radiant, surely placed climax. At nearly 13 minutes, When David Heard—a passage from the Second Book of Samuel that has drawn composers to it on a regular basis over the centuries—is by far the largest work on the disc. It shows Whitacre’s skill at shaping and pacing a broader canvas, with its contrasted segmented phrases, overlapping harmonies and hypnotic repetition.

The recording has an evocative ecclesiastical glow…admirers, choral directors, and those looking to explore this greatly gifted composer may wish to take the plunge with this present collection at the wallet-friendly Naxos price.

David Patrick Stearns
The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 2010

Eric Whitacre is the flagbearer in the new generation of choral music composers, thanks to music that’s lush, consonant, harmonically sophisticated, but, unlike the older Morten Lauridsen, more than unending streams of gorgeousness. Again and again in this collection of mostly shortish works—including oft-recorded pieces such as I thank you God for most this amazing day and the lesser-known Birds , one of his many settings of Octavio Paz poems—Whitacre stands above the others thanks to his extra spark of musical invention as well as his instincts for gentle surprise and knowing when an idea has run its course.

In past performances, I’ve questioned the halting, repetitive nature of the disc’s longest piece, When David Heard, but not with conductor Noel Edison and his Elora Festival Singers on hand. In fact, the piece accumulates dramatic momentum even as the music’s protagonist laments at great length. With this Toronto-area chorus meeting all of the music’s demands with polish and intelligence—and recorded in a radiant church acoustic—this is among the best all-Whitacre discs., July 2010

There are highly personal elements throughout the choral music of Eric Whitacre (born 1970), and they are heard in abundance on a new CD of 11 of his works. Eight of these pieces are a cappella and give Whitacre ample scope for his eclectic mix of contemporary techniques and sounds with vocal music’s traditional emphasis on precision of enunciation and beauty of tone. The longest piece here, When David Heard, gives the Elora Festival Singers nearly 13 minutes of sometimes-intricate, sometimes-direct communication, and Noel Edison paces them well—their textural clarity and warmly blended sound are quite effective. The other a cappella pieces on this CD are Her Sacred Spirit Soars, A Boy and a Girl, Water Night, This Marriage, Lux aurumque (here translated incorrectly as “Light of Gold,” the title actually means “Light and Gold”), I thank you God for most this amazing day, and Sleep. There are also two pieces with Leslie De’Ath on piano (little tree and Little Birds), plus one with Carol Bauman on percussion (the very interesting Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine). Every work here displays Whitacre’s personal style—which, because it is personal, will not be to everyone’s taste, and indeed at times seems more enjoyable to sing than to listen to (the 62-minute CD seems longer than it is). One reason the works are interesting to perform but not always as pleasing to hear is the profusion of what have come to be called “Whitacre chords,” which are sevenths or ninths that often contain suspended seconds or fourths. Used from time to time, they create unusual coloration in a cappella music. Used frequently, as they are by Whitacre, they tend to grate on the ear after a while (but are challenging and quite interesting for the performers to sing). Add to the chordal structure a tendency to use frequent metrical and rhythmic changes and you have works that give performers a real workout but that do not always bring equal pleasure to listeners—at least not when they go on for an hour or more. Individual pieces and parts of pieces on this CD are fascinating, but the disc as a whole is more of an enthusiast’s delight than anything else. Still, Whitacre does have enthusiasts, and they will surely welcome this well-performed heaping helping of his choral music.

Norman Lebrecht
Dilettante, June 2010

Whitacre, 40, is among the most performed American composers of the moment. You can hear why from this sing-easy disc of simple harmonies for amateur choirs, rooted in the Anglican tradition. Blindfold, he could be mistaken for John Rutter. Before long, my ear is begging for a challenging interval, or a tempo change. Noel Edison conducts the Elora Festival Singers. Perhaps I should try Whitacre’s instrumental and electronic output.

Lawson Taitte
The Dallas Morning News, June 2010

At 40, Nevada native Eric Whitacre is already one of the world’s most popular choral composers. He has two major British gigs, and there are annual festivals named for him in Australia and Italy. One of his pieces has eight recordings by different groups in the catalog.

This CD by a distinguished Canadian ensemble conducted by Noel Edison holds some of his most popular works and several less-familiar ones. The transparent glow of the higher voices is aptly suited to Whitacre’s eclectic and luminous style.

These aren’t pieces for church choir. Most have secular texts by poets such as Emily Dickinson, E.E. Cummings and Octavio Paz. Occasionally there’s instrumental accompaniment such as piano or percussion.

The music possesses obvious links to the sacred minimalists of the Baltics and Eastern Europe, but doesn’t depend so much on repetition or bareness of texture. Whitacre isn’t afraid of a bit of dissonance, but never fear—he’s writing for the widest possible audience.

James Manishen
Winnipeg Free Press, June 2010

The first impression of American composer Eric Whitacre, 40, is his absorbing harmonic language. Uncomplicated, yet well upholstered with the interval of the “second” adding crunch to the tonal harmonies. A lot happens underneath the variety of texts here, but the music unfolds so organically, one senses neither text nor tone could function independent of the other.

Whitacre doesn’t hide his influences. You hear touches of Ligeti, Pärt and perhaps Tavener in the vibrato-less pure sounds, seamless lines and beautiful sonorities, flawlessly delivered by the Elora Festival Singers. Highlights are Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, its story etched in the gently shifting harmonic rhythms, and When David Heard, its insistence over the brief text and striking sounds of silence most memorable.

WQXR (New York), June 2010

The Elora Festival Singers, one of Canada’s finest professional choirs, present eleven of his most popular works based on a mix of sacred and secular texts from Rumi, Octavio Paz, e. e. cummings, the Bible and Charles Anthony Silvestri. The pieces are as much about atmosphere as music.

His sonic alchemy can be heard in the opening Her Sacred Spirit Soars, a shimmering, Impressionistic score with swelling lines and harmonies that fluctuate between great tension and release. Whitacre can make a simple and ear-catching statement like the two-and-a-half minute This Marriage (based on a Rumi poem), just as he can build a large choral edifice like the wrenching, 13-minute When David Heard that Absalom Was Slain. While at times his music comforts like a warm sonic bath, it can surprise, as in Little Birds, which brings crunchy tone clusters and hints of Messiaen birdsong along to a text by Octavio Paz. Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine is another fascinating work that suggests Renaissance madrigals by way of British composer John Tavener.

…conductor Noel Edison brings judicious pacing to each of the selections on this fine introduction to this one-of-a-kind composer.

Joshua Meggitt
Cyclic Defrost, June 2010

Nevadan composer Eric Whitacre specialises in music for choir and wind, and this survey of recent choral works is an excellent introduction to the former. Those fond of the sublime sonorities of Arvo Part and John Tavener take note: Whitacre too works in crafting music of incredible beauty, vast glistening harmonies which possess a transcendental purity while utilising contemporary, almost idiosyncratic structures.

This amounts to Whitacre’s signature ‘Whitacre chord’, ‘seventh or ninth chords, with and without suspended seconds and fourths’, whatever that means. Bluntly, there’s a shimmering effect, a formal quality that has endeared him to choirs (he’s even set up a ‘virtual choir’ for 185 involving singers from 12 countries). It tilts Ligeti’s clusters on their side, transforming the spine-chilling dissonance of Lux Aerterna into spine-tingling consonance, resolving tensions without resorting completely to traditional tonal development. It’s this fact that keeps Whitacre interesting and ahead of the humdrum neo-classical crowd, giving his music both mass Classic FM appeal and interest from more serious quarters.

This is ably demonstrated in Lux Aurumque, in which voice fragments build and overlap, creating a restless forward momentum which seems to strive ever upward. Little Birds and Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine both march by rapidly, powered by minimalist rhythms and steady pulse. Those pieces based on religious texts, When David Heard and I Thank You God for this Amazing Day, attain a cosmic quality without succumbing to kitsch. Perhaps this is Whitacre’s greatest achievement, his ability to create works with a strong spiritual yearning while remaining faithful to earthly, secular concerns.

John Terauds
Toronto Star, June 2010

The liner notes for this new album—issued a few weeks before the start of the annual Elora Festival—are the most overwrought and opaque introduction to a composer’s music I have ever read. So, don’t read. Listen, and be seduced by 61 minutes of 21st-century choral bonbons, as rendered by one of Canada’s finest professional choirs and their founding music director of three decades, Noel Edison. Mining poetry from several different cultures, adventurous U.S. composer Eric Whitacre blends the clear textures of minimalism, the complex tone clusters of the late-20th century and the slippery tonal centre of 100 years ago with the polyphonic Renaissance, creating a natural tension that envelops us in enchanting, atmospheric aural worlds. The 11 tracks are a mix of sacred—like the emotionally wrenching setting of “When David Heard that Absalom Was Slain”— and secular, like the epic “Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine,” which shows off Whitacre’s debt to the Renaissance most clearly. The Elora Festival Singers are flawless. Sit back, and let these masters take over your senses.

Olivia Giovetti
Time Out New York, June 2010

Composer Eric Whitacre is all about text and context. As he explains in the liner notes for his latest CD, Choral Music, just issued on Naxos, “I simply try to quiet myself enough to hear the notes already hidden below the poet’s words.” The result of his self-quieting is 11 musical happenings, a set of works that can be enjoyed individually or in one lush choral bender.

Her Sacred Spirit Soars, a captivating, gripping opener, illustrates the synesthetic elements of Whitacre’s works. With only a series of little dots on lined paper, Whitacre can evoke the coppery gilded spires and vibrant azure skies found in Charles Anthony Silvestri’s text. Similar alchemy is at work in Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, which plays like a Renaissance madrigal by way of Arvo Pärt.

Easily at home in the more poetic works—two highlights here are settings of E.E. Cummings’s “little tree” and “I thank you God for most this amazing day”—Whitacre loosens his taut dramatic thread in the biblical setting When David Heard. At nearly 13 minutes, the piece’s length may be its weakness; still, conductor Noel Edison tightens the string at key dramatic points, such as the illuminating and haunting repetition of the line “O Absalom, my son.” The Elora Festival Singers give an exquisite performance, though at times their diction begs for printed texts (available online). If 21 people singing Whitacre sound this good, we can’t wait to see the 400-person chorus involved in his Paradise Lost at Carnegie Hall this week.

Gail Eichenthal
National Public Radio, June 2010

I can’t possibly forget the first time I heard about the music of Eric Whitacre—it was moments after the inaugural concert at Los Angeles’ brand-new Walt Disney Hall, in 2003. I’d had the honor of co-hosting an NPR live broadcast that night and was leaving the hall when I bumped into an old friend, the L.A. Philharmonic’s audio producer, Fred Vogler. Fred, in turn, introduced me to a friend of his, a young man named Eric Whitacre who looked exactly like a rock star—long dirty blond hair, a hint of stubble on his chiseled face.

“He’s one of the most frequently performed choral composers of our time,” Vogler said. I nodded politely, thinking, “Of course he is, Fred. And I’m Clara Schumann.”

Only a few weeks later, my son, a high-school choral singer, brought home a recording of “Water Night,” and I was mesmerized by its otherworldly beauty and chromatic harmonies that seemed to float in some mysterious musical landscape. I learned that “Water Night” was Eric Whitacre’s music, and that, indeed, choirs around the world were singing it.

Whitacre, who just turned 40, proudly credits The Beatles and electronic music as influences, but this particular masterwork was also inspired by Whitacre’s gratitude toward a mentor, Bruce Mayhall. It was Mayhall who convinced Whitacre during a dark time to stay in music. This brilliant piece, written in less than an hour, is the very least Mayhall deserves. The performances on this gorgeous new release are by the Elora Festival Singers, and they’ve never sounded better.

Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, June 2010

“His music has struck a universal chord in an area that no longer seems to be universal,” writes annotator Tim Sharp. You can say that again. The last disc of Whitacre’s choral music by the choral group Polyphony, called “Cloudburst” was some of the most sumptuous choral music of our time. So is this, whether Whitacre takes his texts from Rumi, Octavio Paz, E.E. Cummings, the Bible or Charles Anthony Silvestri. If any of this were the first music you heard in the afterlife, you’d know right away that your news for eternity was good—very good. frankly, that’s what this music sounds like.

Stephen Eddins, June 2010

Not only is the ensemble Elora Festival Singers founded and led by Noel Edison, the resident choir of the summer festival held about an hour west of Toronto, but its concerts, tours, and recordings have established it as one of the freshest Canadian chamber choirs. It’s an exceptionally fine group, with a warm, well-blended, youthful sound, and the singers’ discipline and technical prowess are evident in everything they sing. This album devoted to the choral music of Eric Whitacre includes almost half of the works for mixed voices he had written up to 2009, and it’s an impressive collection. Whitacre is a master of the lusciously rich harmonic language that has become the lingua franca of tonal choral music in the new century, but he also brings an exceptionally lively and unencumbered imagination to the texts he sets, freely using non-traditional vocal techniques that are more often associated with the avant-garde, but in ways that seems entirely organic within his relatively conservative tonal context. The works that use those devices, such as “Little Birds,” with a text by Octavio Paz, with its unembarrassed and entirely convincing use of bird sounds, are among the most memorable. “Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine,” one of his most spectacular works, is also vocally adventurous, and his incorporation and transformation of polyphonic madrigals is nothing short of stunning in its dramatic and emotional impact. Even the works that are more conventional, such as “Her sacred spirit soars,” “Lux aurumque,” and “Sleep,” have the imprint of Whitacre’s distinctive musical personality. “When David Heard” is based on a single sentence, King David’s lament over the death of his son Absalom. It lasts 13 minutes and has an austerity and gravity reminiscent of Arvo Pärt. Naxos’ sound is clean and warmly present, with just enough resonance for this repertoire. The album makes an excellent introduction to Whitacre’s music and should be of strong interest to fans of new choral music.

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, June 2010

Aside from the “Cloudburst” album on Hyperion, most of my exposure to the music of 40-year old Nevada native Eric Whitacre has been on choral compilations, though I know that at least one instrumental work for Wind Band has also been recorded on Naxos. Whitacre loves superimposed harmonies and lingering dissonances, not unlike some of the music of John Tavener, though I think Whitacre the better composer overall. There is an ecstatic nature to his music, but even this is becoming cliché these days as more and more choral composers are indulging themselves with this sort of static, soprano-intense sound clusters not unlike what Ligeti was doing 30 years ago, but contextually more significant and definitely more accessible.

The music on this disc is a good representation of his style, one that is not to hard to pick up on after just a few tracks. A warning: this music does not move much; those looking for clever Coplandesque figurations like his choral work In the Beginning, or even Randall Thompson-like song had better look elsewhere. This music is meditative, and deems it necessary to focus on sonority first. While the notes by Tim Sharp are rather technical, I think that his statement that melody “is not even a topic of conversation with this music” does Whitacre a disservice. One only need listen to the profoundly moving When David Heard to see that melody is in fact a great part of this music, though it often disguises itself as part of a larger tonal fabric. Sonic wash without melody is simply chord clusters, and Whitacre likes a solid if subtle melodic center in all of his work.

Aside from the above, it is hard to pick out favorites on a disc like this—I am not sure I have any. Rather each piece explores its own dynamic textual and syllabic world, pregnant, according to the composer revealing “notes already hidden below the poet’s words.” With this in mind it is a real shame that no texts are given in this release, something I missed all the more after reading Whitacre’s description of how important the poetry is to him. Nevertheless, one cannot but be moved by the quiet dreamlike trance of Sleep or the gorgeous i thank you God for this most amazing day to texts by—you guessed it—E.E. Cummings (must we always use small letters when referring to anything regarding this man?).

The Elora Festival Singers are not new to Naxos, nor new to choral collectors, and the sound achieved in the Church of St John in Elora, Ontario, is well-nigh perfect. It was also very good programming to include just a few pieces that make use of piano or percussion—three to be exact—as it breaks up choral monotony and adds a delicate sense of color to distract one’s ears briefly. As an introduction to Whitacre’s art this can hardly be bettered.

Balaam’s Music, May 2010

Although still a relatively young man—he was born in 1970—Whitacre’s music is becoming increasingly popular with choirs and choral societies. We’ve certainly sold hundreds of his choral parts in the last couple of years, with pieces like Lux Aurumque and Water Night leading the way. It’s interesting, beautiful, music with original textures and sonorities, set to a wide variety of texts. Performed by a top Canadian chamber choir, the Elora Festival Singers, conducted by Noel Edison, it’s a highly enjoyable fiver’s worth.

David Vernier, May 2010

Eric Whitacre’s choral works have been generously surveyed on disc, but only a handful of choirs have yet devoted an entire recording to his music. He couldn’t have more luminous or illuminating interpreters than the Elora Festival Singers, a choir that I’ve heartily praised in the past and that deserves the same recognition here. Although there is much duplication, this program makes a fine companion to the 2005 recording by Polyphony (Hyperion) that I previously recommended.

Missing from the Hyperion disc but included among the 11 selections here is the rarely recorded “little tree”, a sparkling, brightly sonorous setting with piano of e.e. cummings’ sweetly childlike Christmas poem that contains a couple of musical quotes from what could be the song Gesu Bambino (or perhaps the Sussex carol?) and ends with spectacular multiple bursts of dazzling Whitacre-esque harmony. Also found here but not on the Hyperion recording (which incidentally features more selections altogether—14) are Little Birds, a setting of a poem by Octavio Paz—also with piano and containing some striking, non-sung vocal sounds!, and the wild and fascinating (also rarely recorded) Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, an imaginative scenario with text by C.A. Silvestri.

The rest of the disc is filled with first-rate performances of Whitacre’s most popular works, from A Boy and a Girl and Water Night to Lux aurumque and Sleep. Although not mentioned in the notes, the music for this last piece originally was written to the famous Robert Frost poem, Stopping by woods on a snowy evening, but had to be radically revised when the Frost Estate inexplicably refused to grant permission for a musical setting (in spite of numerous existing ones!). Whitacre and his poetic collaborator ingeniously solved the problem (although the Frost poem still fits neatly into the musical framework) and in the process created one of the composer’s best-loved and most evocative works…Although I haven’t changed my mind about the “too-long-for-its-material” handicap of the 13-minute When David Heard, the setting of e.e. cummings’ “i thank you God for most this amazing day” is truly a masterpiece of choral writing and of musical embodiment of the tone and meaning of the poetry. And the Elora singers certainly “get it”, as they do all the rest of the music on the program. The sound, from the choir’s home venue in Elora, Ontario, exemplifies the consistently fine efforts of engineer Norbert Kraft and producer Bonnie Silver. Highly recommended.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group