Gordon Getty: Choral Music SACD

Review by: ClassicsToday

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

This SACD is a vocal/orchestral collection by San Francisco composer Gordon Getty: four choral works and an operatic scene. The music has a kind of charming, late-Romantic appeal, spiced with some more modern harmonic touches. If you listen to the program straight through you notice that Getty relies on particular mannerisms, such as setting a line of poetry to an upward-rushing musical line, holding on a chord, then descending rapidly in a mirror image of the initial gesture. And after a while, the music does seem a little too well-behaved for its own good. For example, one of the poems in Victorian Scenes is “Blow, Bugle, Blow” from Tennyson’s The Princess, which Benjamin Britten included in his famous Serenade. There, where it contrasts with much darker, more dangerous music, Britten achieves a stunningly evocative effect with these lyrics. Getty’s setting is simply pretty.

That aside, the performances and recordings are very good, the pieces featuring the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus under Michael Tilson Thomas a little better on both counts than the rest, including the six-part choral cycle Young America (to texts by Stephen Vincent Benét and Getty himself) and a setting for male chorus and orchestra of Edgar Allan Poe’s tear-jerker Annabel Lee. This latter work, with its sinister rocking motion, effectively captures the spectral quality of Poe’s over-ripe lament. Getty’s arrangement of Three Welsh Songs, standard tunes featuring new English words by the composer, also will bring a smile to many listeners, though the “Jerusalem” scene from Getty’s opera Plump Jack makes little impression out of its original context. Pentatone Classics supplies clean, detailed engineering with an effective, discrete use of rear-channel ambience. The German venue for the three Vedernikov-led selections is a little drier than the rich, warm San Francisco location.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: none

GORDON GETTY - Young America; Three Welsh Songs (arr. Gordon Getty); Annabel Lee (for male chorus & orchestra); Victorian Scenes; "Jerusalem" (Act 2, scene 7) from the opera Plump Jack

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