“Excellent performances … to overwhelming effect.”
Gloriæ Dei Cantores continues a distinguished series of recordings dedicated to psalm settings by American composers. By the Rivers of Babylon show a wide range of styles and includes several works recorded for the first time – From the lush romanticism of the setting of Psalm 137 by Charles Loeffler (composed in 1901) to the adventurous setting of De Profundis by Arnold Schoenberg (composed in 1950).
Premiere and Only Works
|Track 1||By the Rivers of Babylon||Loeffler|
|Track 2-4||Three Antiphonal Psalms||Thomson|
|Track 7||Sing to the Lord a New Song||Taylor|
|Track 9||Psalm 150||Newbury|
|Track 10||My Song Shall be Always||Near|
|Track 11-13||A Psalm Trilogy||Adler|
|Track 14||Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord||Neswick|
|Track 15||Give Thanks Unto the Lord||Starer|
|Track 16||Cantate Domino||White|
- “Kudos to the ensemble and its conductor for first recordings of a great deal of important American choral music by (primarily) conservative mid-20th century masters, many native born. Elegantly modulated performances. Choral tone is invariably rich and well-balanced, with excellent diction in a live acoustic. Care with phrase shapes, pacing, variety in dynamic range and overall energy.”
David Katz for The American Prize
“The performances are excellent. This is clearly a fine choir. The recorded sound is spacious and reverberant. This, is a very satisfying choral program that can be heartily recommended.”
- “Passionate and moving.”
- “By the Rivers of Babylon is comprised of psalm settings of Charles Loeffler, Virgil Thomson, Arnold Schoenberg, Jean Berger, Samuel Adler, David Ashley White, and five other composers. The Loeffler By the Rivers of Babylon, OP. 3 is accompanied by organ, harp, two flutes, and cello; the White Cantate Domino by organ and brass. Clifford Taylor, Kent A. Newbury, Gerald Near, and Robert Starer are also represented. The prize goes to Bruce Neswick for Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord a New Song. His brilliant organ accompaniment and inspired choral textures are outstanding. The booklet includes informative notes by Craig Timberlake and all texts, including the Hebrew of Schoenberg's setting of De profundis. The 40-voice chorus and their distinguished director have made a fine addition to their discography.”
The American Organist
- “Those who know the Deux Rapsodies of Loeffler ... will find the Loeffler they love in this beautiful work, which is musically the jewel of this album. The severe difficulties of the Schoenberg De Profundis have brought out the best in this group, and the give us an excellent performance. This is anguished, passionate music ... all the singers perform their difficult parts with commitment and excellent tone, to overwhelming effect.”
- “This is the second CD in a series called American Psalmody by the Cape Cod based Gloriæ Dei Cantores. Their first disc was warmly greeted by Raymond Tuttle in Fanfare. This new disc deserves similar praise, especially for the interesting and varied repertoire.
Charles Martin Loeffler’s By the Rivers of Babylon, which gives the CD its title, is a work of considerable charm. Scored for women’s voices accompanied by two flutes, cello, harp, and organ, it is reminiscent of French choral music of the late 19th century, occasionally even suggesting Faure; but the writing is more lush, even at times exotic. At its best, the work’s simple lyricism is quite attractive. Although little over five minutes in all, Thomson's three antiphonal psalms are wonderful examples of the composer at his original best. The third psalm, an exciting modernist litany, is a small masterpiece. It is interesting to hear two settings of the De Profundis back-to-back by distinctively different composers. Thomson’s is simple, restrained, and remarkably gentle. Schoenberg’s, written and sung in Hebrew, is dramatic and expressive. It is his final work, and although it employs 12-tone technique and Sprechstimme, there are some daringly tonal passages. While these pieces, are, for me, the highlights of the disc, the rest of the program is also enjoyable. The three psalms in Samuel Adler’s Trilogy are built on a freely dissonant, flowing declamatory style that is quite appealing and very effective. Of the shorter works, Robert Starer’s sturdy setting of Psalm 136 stands out for its strong evocation of early American psalmody. But the other brief psalm settings by Clifford Taylor, Jean Berger, Kent Newbury, Gerald Near, and Bruce Neswick are all very enjoyable. The disc closes with appropriate brilliance with the addition of brass instruments for David Ashley White’s stirring Cantate Domino. The performances are excellent. This is clearly a fine choir, and conductor Elizabeth Patterson is to be commended.
This disc is devoted to Psalm settings by American composers of the 20th century, opening with the lush and engaging By the Waters of Babylon by Charles Loeffler, richly scored for women's voices with organ, harp, two flutes, and cello. A varied program follows, ranging from an attractive but tame work of Jean Berger to the De Profundis of (arguable American) Arnold Schoenberg a piece probably better suited to concert use than to liturgical. Virgil Thomson’s treatment of Psalm 136 solves the problem of the recurring refrain for his mercy endureth forever through creative alternations. Highlights are Gerald Near’s My Song Shall Be Always of the Loving-Kindness of the Lord, a Cantate Domino of David Ashley White, and Bruce Newsick’s brilliant Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord a New Song. Again, the choir and instrumentalists are in excellent form.”
The Journal of Association of Anglican Musicians