For Your Listening Pleasure
Stanford Symphonic Chorus: Fall 2004

Since some of you have asked for recommended recordings of the repertoire we are working on this fall, here is a list of my favorite:

All three choral works from this fall's program are readily available on CD—though procuring some of them might take a little longer than usual.

There are two recordings of Mendelssohn's Psalm 114 currently available: Frieder Bernius conducting the Kammerchor Stuttgart with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie (Carus 83.202), and Michel Corboz conducting the Choeur & Orchestre Gulbenkian de Lisbonne (Erato 4509-94359-2. Both are fine performances, Bernius is more taut and lean with slightly brighter tempi. Textures are very cleanly etched, and there is terrific flow and forward momentum to the phrasing. The orchestral introduction to the first Allegro (m. 88) is immaculately played—stunning! Corboz is more lush and expansive—more "romantic". What this performance may lack in momentum, is more than made up for with a a sense of breath drama. The choral singing is fine in both performances, and both are well-recorded, though the Corboz is a little "mistier" in definition (and as a result, diction is slightly more difficult to discern).

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Bruckner's Psalm 150 is easier to find—and the piece(s) it's coupled with on different CDs might well determine which version you wish to purchase. Wonderfully successful (as would be expected!) is Helmuth Rilling conducting the G=E4chinger Kantorei Stuttgart and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart (H=E4nssler 98.119, coupled with Bruckner's Mass No. 2 in e minor and the Te Deum). The soprano tone can be a bit "screamy" above the staff when singing at big volumes (almost unavoidable when singing sustained high Bb above full orchestra!), but the drama is winning—there's a reason we say "Rilling is thrilling"! And nobody controls those tutti luftpause like Maestro Rilling. :-)

One of the classic recordings of Bruckner's Psalm 150 is Eugen Jochum conducting the Chor der Deutschen Oper Belin and the Berlin Philharmoniker (Deutsche Grammophon 457 743-2, mid-priced and coupled with the Te Deum and a generous selection of Bruckner's a cappella motets). The choral singing is vintage; rich, full-throated, colorful—and often without a real sense of "blend" (neither vowel, vibrato, or timbre). In fact, in some of the softer passages, the competing vibratos rather obscure the pitch. But, this is still a wonderful performance—passionate and committed. Recorded in 1965, the sound also vintage DG: warm and detailed analog with a terrific sense of space and depth.

If it's clean you want, it's clean you get with Matthew Best conducting the Corydon Singers and Orchestra (Hyperion CDA66599). This is British Cathedral choir perfection (though a mixed choir of all mature voices) delivering a controlled but never staid performance. Wonderful choral tone, exacting attention to detail in diction and ensemble, and the best recorded sound of the three Bruckner CDs on this list.

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There is only one recording of Erich Zeisl's Requiem Ebraico, and it can be ordered from AmazonUK although, be advised that it may take 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Lawrence Foster conducts the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester und Chor Belin (Decca 460 211-2) and the piece is coupled with Franz Waxman's haunting Das Lied von Terezin. Though this setting of the 92nd Psalm was originally composed in English, this recording is in Hebrew, as we will perform it. Note also, that although the text in the score is transliterated in Hebrew as it would have been spoken in pre-war, Eastern Europe, we will perform the work in modern Hebrew - and this recording is also in modern Hebrew. The sweep and emotion of the performance is gripping, and the soloists (baritone Michael Kraus, in particular) are appropriately cantorial.


Steve Sano
16 September, 2004