THEA MUSGRAVE (b.1928): The Voices of Our Ancestors for Chorus, Brass Quintet and Organ, Missa Brevis for Chorus and Organ, Rorate Coeli for Chorus.
Catalogue Number: 08W046
Description: Compelling and exciting choral works, spanning more than four decades, from the sprightly nonagenarian. Rorate cœli (1973) is a tour de force of virtuosic choral writing, full of innovative coloristic word-setting. It sets two poems by William Dunbar (1465?-1520?), for Christmas and Easter, with interspersed liturgical verses in Latin. Musgrave's gift for the theatrical, cultivated through years of writing impressive operatic works for actual theatrical performance, and which has often informed the nature of her concertante works, is amply on display in this work, with the vivid and elaborate imagery of the Dunbar poems illustrated in a wide range of vocal effects, all within the context of her customary extended tonal idiom. The 2014 Missa brevis is a succinct setting of the Ordinary of the Mass, with an optimistic feeling overall, though it’s brevity and accessibility do not imply a lack of variety or originality; the soprano soloist is instructed to sing from several different locations in different sections - a spatial and dramatic device that Musgrove has used not infrequently - and the positive, generally upbeat mood of the piece turns sombre in the concluding Agnus Dei, though it ends with a hopeful Dona nobis pacem. The Voices of our Ancestors is a large, ambitious work, setting ancient texts in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Latin, Greek, Egyptian and Chinese, in English translation. The strongly tonal work journeys from the ancients' quest for knowledge of creation, God, death and the purpose of life to a final exhortation to, basically, drink and make the most of what life has to offer! The music follows a textural and harmonic trajectory from the mysterious opening (featuring a spatial assembly of the performers from ambiguous offstage origins) toward a solid, earthy conclusion, and is chorally and instrumentally impressive and colorful throughout. English, Latin texts. American Brass Quintet, Tadeusz von Moltke (narrator), James Adams and David Enlow (organ), New York Virtuoso Singers; Harold Rosenbaum.