“A stunning album of American choral music with superb sound.” —ALLMUSIC.COM
“Powerful, passionately sculpted.” —Gramophone
“Impeccable vocal blend.” —Apple Music
“Moving and radiant.” —Fanfare
“Music of mesmerizing beauty.” —Apple Music
“A sonic mystical treat.” —Fanfare
SAMUEL ADLER BELIEVES “LIFE IS A GIFT”
The risk-taking composer of 400 published works taught for sixty-three years at Juilliard, and Eastman, and has given masterclasses and workshops at over 300 universities world-wide. Having studied with Aaron Copland, Paul Hindemith, Randall Thompson, and more, he knows just about everyone on the twentieth-century American music scene and has received numerous awards including ASCAP’s “Aaron Copland Lifetime Achievement Award.” He believes that one should compose in the “energy of his time” and he is without doubt one of the greatest living composers and conductors. Sixty years of his compositions are represented on this album – from A Hymn of Praise to several works written in the last five years. Known for his optimism and “life-affirming spirit,” he is uniquely positioned to speak to our time.
At age ten Samuel Adler narrowly escaped Nazi Germany during Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass.” As he and his father collected sheet music in the loft of the synagogue, saving all that they could on that terrifying night, soldiers heard them from down below. It was the sudden collapse of the pipe organ that allowed Adler and his father to run and escape through an underground tunnel. His family took the last train out of Germany with their bags full of sheet music, paving the way for Adler to study and nurture his musical gifts in America. At age ninety-four, he continues to compose, sharing his prolific musical gifts.
His “life-affirming” spirit comes through powerfully on this album. These texts recount God’s goodness on the journey of life—through the hills, valleys, and mountaintop experiences. The texts from the Psalms cover every emotion from pain to joy, disappointment to elation, from sorrow to hope. A Hymn of Praise affirms that “His love shall be our strength and stay while ages roll.” Let Us Rejoice with its setting for women’s voices and handbells is full of exuberant excitement. My Beloved is Mine was written in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Gloriæ Dei Cantores, celebrating the long-standing relationship of the composer with the choir. A Choral Trilogy opens with, “Why have you forsaken me?” with the Psalmist crying out to God, but then moves to the words from Romans 8 “The Spirit helps us,” and “nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” The final movement is full of praise, singing, dancing, joy, and hallelujahs. We are then taken to the comforting words of Psalm 23 in a lush and glorious arrangement, set in both Hebrew and English. The culminating work, To Speak to Our Time, was commissioned for the eightieth anniversary concert of Kristallnacht. In Adler’s words, “This music was composed to deliver a message to society today of the plight of refugees worldwide as we must work for a world of peace.” Adler presents the listener with a powerful pilgrimage from unspeakable horrors and pain to a feeling of confident peace and hope. The final work, How Sweet the Sound, is a beautiful setting of the beloved hymn, Amazing Grace.
Samuel Adler aims at “healing or repairing the world so that by our life’s work we would leave the world a better place when we depart from it.” He is well-known for his ecumenical vision and for building bridges through music. It is this mutual vision and passion that brought Samuel Adler and Gloriæ Dei Cantores together.
Gloriæ Dei Cantores has been building bridges through the international language of music since its founding in 1988. The choir sings in eighteen languages, and has touched the hearts of audiences in twenty-three countries in Europe, Russia, and North America, receiving extensive critical acclaim for its artistic elegance, performance authenticity, and compelling spirituality.
In preparation for this recording, members of Gloriæ Dei Cantores delved into the composer’s works, studying the texts, the compositional style, and the vision. Each choir member brought a distinct perspective, sparking lively discussions and unifying the vision they aimed to portray through the recording. Throughout this process conductor Richard K. Pugsley worked with the choir to bring their study, vision, and emotional connection to the texts and the music to life on the recording floor, bringing forth a message that “speaks to our time.”
Known for his musical intuition and performance authenticity, Richard K. Pugsley has been acknowledged for his “expert conducting” (Classics Today) with “clarity and instinct for high impact moments” (San Francisco Classical Voice), and for his ability to “reveal the details of each composition with a rare sensitivity and luminosity” (New York Classical Review). Pugsley has conducted the internationally recognized Gloriæ Dei Cantores for over twenty years and has been instrumental in promoting and highlighting American composers, winning the Ernest Bacon Memorial award for the performance of American music.
Pugsley’s passion for enlivening the sacred texts of choral literature as relevant and present encounters of sung prayer, spans the traditions of ancient Gregorian chant, to classic repertoire, modern works, and rarely performed choral gems. Gloriæ Dei Cantores’ discography includes the works of over 200 composers, and 150 premiere works on record for the first time.
Pugsley is an avid storyteller as is Adler, aiming to communicate the texts set to music as authentically as possible and in true harmony with the composer’s vision. To Speak to Our Time is a musical journey with all of the emotions that make us human. Travel with us and may Samuel Adler’s music illumine your path.
From the Composer
”My settings of sacred texts have always had a very special place in my creative life, and the works included on this recording are very close to my heart, especially since they are recorded with such conviction, insight, and energy. It is this kind of music making for which every composer yearns, and it is more than fulfilled on this recording. My wonderful association with Gloriæ Dei Cantores goes back many years with quite a few recordings including A Prophecy of Peace under the inspired direction of Elizabeth Patterson. Now with Richard Pugsley’s magnificent leadership, many more of my sacred music works will be made available. I am so very grateful for this magnificent recording, and hope it will be enjoyed by people of all faiths.”