- Fare Well
- A Nun Takes the Veil, song for voice & piano, Op. 13/1
20.58 In Stock
Polyphony and its conductor, Stephen Layton, are among the most familiar presences on the British choral scene, and it may be with some trepidation that choral music fans greet this album of American music, released in conjunction with the U.S. Independence Day celebrations in 2015. They needn't have worried: diction isn't much of an issue in the repertory Polyphony has chosen, and the program is a nice mix of familiar numbers and worthwhile surprises. It's framed by Randall Thompson, whose "Alleluia" will be familiar to many Americans who've sung in a collegiate choir; the "Fare Well" at the end, a setting of a poem by Walter de la Mare, is considerably more novel. Thompson's music was written with the big, more ceremonial type of American choir in mind, and he sounds a little constrained here. But at the center of the program is Samuel Barber, and here Polyphony works wonders. Layton includes the Agnus Dei (track 2), the vocal version of the famed Adagio for strings (which has become as popular in Britain as it is in the U.S.). But he follows it with two groups of extraordinary choral songs where the subtlety of Polyphony's singing matches the composer's close attention to text. The "Reincarnations, Op. 16," is a set, treating translations of old Irish poetry, and they're quite affecting. The miscellaneous songs toward the end of the program are even better: sample the powerful economy of the Emily Dickinson poem "Let down the bars, O death, Op. 8/2" (track 20). Also worthy of revival is Leonard Bernstein's "Missa brevis" (1988), whose theatrical quality comes from its origins as incidental music. This is a fine program of American choral music, with some pieces that will surprise and please even home-grown aficionados.