Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Often the success of a choral recording comes down to the programming: the singing is first rate, the sound fine, but something in the sequence and choices of music just doesn’t jell. As I tried to figure out the rationale for this program–which contains some very good music and is expertly sung by one of North America’s best vocal ensembles, the 12-voice, Vancouver-based, conductorless Musica Intima–I noticed several recurring themes: spring, a summer’s day, flowers and trees, nightingales, and especially water–two rivers, a stream, oceans, a spring, and a lake. The composers range from Gorecki (My Vistula, Grey Vistula) to Elgar (My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land) to Finzi (Seven Poems of Robert Bridges) to Saint-Saëns (two motets, Calme des nuits and Les fleurs et les arbres). Four of the remaining nine selections are arrangements, including James Erb’s oft-performed, deliciously atmospheric setting of Shenandoah and a nifty version of the French Canadian folksong À la Claire fontaine by Stephen Smith. But then, there are several jazzy, pop-flavored selections–William Hawley’s Io son la Primavera, for example, and Nils Lindberg’s three English poem settings (enough with the major seventh chords already!). Somehow, this mix of music of such diverse musical weight and temperament presents itself something like a platter containing both hors d’oeuvres and sweets. Of course, you can choose whatever you’re in the mood for, but indulging in the whole thing leaves you slightly unsettled. There are many marvelous musical moments–it’s nice to hear gems such as Robert Pearsall’s Lay a Garland and Gorecki’s My Vistula–and a very few missteps: the rarely heard Les fleurs by Saint-Saëns requires a lighter touch and brighter tempo. The liner notes contain complete texts and English translations but unfortunately, there are no notes on composers or music.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: CLEAR

Various works by Gerald Finzi (Seven Poems of Robert Bridges); Edward Elgar (My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land); Camille Saint-Saëns (Calme des nuits; Les fleurs et les arbres); -
Henryk Gorecki (My Vistula, Grey Vistula); others -

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