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Polyphony, Stephen Layton - American Polyphony: Barber, Bernstein, Copland, Thompson (2015)

Posted By: Designol
Polyphony, Stephen Layton - American Polyphony: Barber, Bernstein, Copland, Thompson (2015)

Polyphony, Stephen Layton - American Polyphony: Barber, Bernstein, Copland, Thompson (2015)
EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 337 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 171 Mb | Scans included
Genre: Classical, Choral | Label: Hyperion | # CDA67929 | Time: 01:14:08

An all-too-rare new recording from Polyphony and Stephen Layton presents highlights from the choral repertoire by four twentieth-century American giants: Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson. Framed by Thompson’s understated favourites Alleluia and Fare Well, the programme includes Bernstein’s Missa brevis, Copland’s early set of four motets, and—of course—Barber’s inimitable Agnus Dei.

It's often the familiar, hackneyed pieces which most fully reveal the character of an ensemble or performer, the mirror in which their interpretive mettle is most fully reflected. In that respect I've no hesitation in saying this is the finest performance of Barber's Agnus Dei I've heard by any choir, live or on record. The sustained tonal plenitude and fabulous breath apportioning of the sopranos in the opening paragraph; the organic emergence of other voice-parts as the textures alter, and the slow-burn kindling of an eventually incandescent climax—these mark the performance with a special intensity gripping the attention in every bar of music.

There's more Barber: the jabbing accents of 'Mary Hynes' from Reincarnations are deftly differentiated, summoning the joyful buoyancy the composer was aiming for, and the suddenly benumbed decrescendo Polyphony singers achieve on the last word ('grief') of ‘Anthony O'Daly’ is further evidence of how totally their consummate technique is placed at the service of a piece's meaning and intention. In the third setting, 'The coolin', the enveloping sensuality of the Irish bardic poetry is beautifully rendered in the supple phrasing of the choir, and the affectionate caress of Stephen Layton's conducting.

In Bernstein's Missa brevis, the singers' electrifying attack, the sentient countertenor solos of David Allsopp, and the peal of tubular bells make for another riveting account—the three combine to particularly ravishing effect in the Benedictus. The clashing harmonies between upper and lower voices at the start of the Agnus Dei are held in perfect counterbalance, the moment tense but not melodramatically overstated.

Topping and tailing the programme are two works by Randall Thomspon. Tenderness is the keynote of both performances; Alleluia the composer's anxious, muted response to the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940, Fare Well his pained response to the intimations of mortality in Walter de la Mare's poem.

A strongly purposeful account of Copland's Four Motets belies the composer's own modest assessment of the work, while among the other pieces Barber's raptly expectant 'A nun takes the veil 'Heaven-haven' again confirms the stellar levels of choral technique and interpretive insight achieved by Stephen Layton and his singers.

Hyperion's engineering achieves a virtually ideal balance between allowing a degree of resonance from the church acoustic to warm the textures, and shining light into the inner workings of the vocal writing. That clarity increases exponentially if you buy the recording in the higher-resolution format available on the Hyperion website. A wonderful recital, not to be missed.

Review by Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine

This is an atmospheric anthology, fastidiously chosen and delivered by this fine choir. The Barber Agnus Dei, the vocal version of the famous Adagio, is the best-known piece and makes its customary impact, although this performance trumps most others. The slow pace is impressively sustained and there is a telling bass-line commanding a real low D. Then Layton explores Barber’s unaccompanied choral pieces with equal sympathy. Twelfth night catches the mystical intensity of Laurie Lee’s nativity poem and Barber also admired the Irish folk qualities of James Stephens in Reincarnations. The choral pacing and phrasing in pieces such as ‘A nun takes the veil’ is impeccable.

The Copland Motets are uncharacteristic student pieces in a conservative style. They were written for his teacher, Nadia Boulanger, when he was probably not yet 21. As it happens, they are close to the idiom of the Barber songs represented here and well worth their 1979 publication, especially in performances like these. Randall Thompson’s Alleluia was a best-selling choral piece from its publication in 1940 right through the 1960s. It may now seem slightly tame, but Thompson caught the mood of Walter de la Mare’s famous poem Fare Well to perfection.

The oddity here is the Bernstein Missa brevis. It was put together from recycled material—and it shows—but it does offer an insight into unfamiliar Bernstein with echoes of before and after. Parts of it uses tubular bells; there’s a smattering of drums; and there are some attractive solos, beautifully sung by countertenor David Allsopp.

Review by Peter Dickinson, Gramophone

Polyphony, Stephen Layton - American Polyphony: Barber, Bernstein, Copland, Thompson (2015)



Tracklist:

Randall Thompson (1899-1984)
01. Alleluia (06:12)

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
02. Agnus Dei (09:06)
Reincarnations, Op.16
03. 1. Mary Hynes (02:23)
04. 2. Anthony O'Daly (03:07)
05. 3. The coolin' (04:06)

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
06. 1. Kyrie (01:10)
07. 2. Gloria (02:48)
08. 3. Sanctus (01:22)
09. 4. Benedictus (01:21)
10. 5. Agnus Dei (02:40)
11. 6. Dona nobis pacem (02:28)

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
4 Motets
12. 1. Help us, O Lord (02:57)
13. 2. Thou, O Jehovah, abideth forever (02:23)
14. 3. Have mercy on us, O my Lord (04:08)
15. 4. Sing ye praises to our king (01:58)

Samuel Barber
2 Pieces, Op.42
16. 1. Twelfth Night (04:48)
17. 2. To be sung on the water (02:53)
4 Songs, Op.13
18. 1. A nun takes the veil 'Heaven-haven' (02:42)
2 Choruses, Op.8
19. 1. The virgin martyrs (03:34)
20. 2. Let down the bars, O death (02:34)

Randall Thompson
21. Fare Well (09:19)


Exact Audio Copy V1.1 from 23. June 2015

EAC extraction logfile from 15. November 2015, 20:35

Polyphony, Stephen Layton / American Polyphony

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Add ID3 tag : No
Command line compressor : C:\Program Files (x86)\Exact Audio Copy\Flac\flac.exe
Additional command line options : -V -8 -T "Date=%year%" -T "Genre=%genre%" %source%


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Filename C:\temp\CDA67929 - Barber, Bernstein, Copland, Thompson - Polyphony, Layton\American Polyphony.wav

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Test CRC 65D8C61B
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==== Log checksum 5F9F8116C0310034CB777B645149F205759CF28C77449B04C38C46CCC1AB58C3 ====

foobar2000 1.2 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2016-11-25 15:29:41

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: Polyphony, Stephen Layton / American Polyphony
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
DR14 -0.12 dB -21.28 dB 6:12 01-Thompson: Alleluia
DR12 -0.64 dB -18.29 dB 9:07 02-Barber: Agnus Dei
DR13 -0.98 dB -19.59 dB 2:23 03-Barber: Reincarnations, Op.16 - 1. Mary Hynes
DR12 -0.40 dB -17.33 dB 3:07 04-Barber: Reincarnations, Op.16 - 2. Anthony O'Daly
DR14 -0.02 dB -20.01 dB 4:06 05-Barber: Reincarnations, Op.16 - 3. The coolin'
DR9 -2.34 dB -17.19 dB 1:10 06-Bernstein: Missa brevis - 1. Kyrie
DR12 -0.08 dB -15.96 dB 2:48 07-Bernstein: Missa brevis - 2. Gloria
DR11 0.00 dB -17.56 dB 1:22 08-Bernstein: Missa brevis - 3. Sanctus
DR12 -0.28 dB -19.00 dB 1:21 09-Bernstein: Missa brevis - 4. Benedictus
DR12 -0.96 dB -18.50 dB 2:40 10-Bernstein: Missa brevis - 5. Agnus Dei
DR12 0.00 dB -17.26 dB 2:28 11-Bernstein: Missa brevis - 6. Dona nobis pacem
DR14 -2.16 dB -21.97 dB 2:57 12-Copland: 4 Motets - 1. Help us, O Lord
DR12 -1.75 dB -19.55 dB 2:23 13-Copland: 4 Motets - 2. Thou, O Jehovah, abideth forever
DR15 -1.64 dB -21.46 dB 4:09 14-Copland: 4 Motets - 3. Have mercy on us, O my Lord
DR14 -0.60 dB -19.79 dB 1:59 15-Copland: 4 Motets - 4. Sing ye praises to our king
DR13 0.00 dB -19.13 dB 4:48 16-Barber: 2 Pieces, Op.42 - 1. Twelfth Night
DR16 -0.70 dB -23.42 dB 2:54 17-Barber: 2 Pieces, Op.42 - 2. To be sung on the water
DR12 -2.35 dB -20.36 dB 2:43 18-Barber: 4 Songs, Op.13 - 1. A nun takes the veil 'Heaven-haven'
DR12 -0.15 dB -18.21 dB 3:34 19-Barber: 2 Choruses, Op.8 - 1. The virgin martyrs
DR13 -0.11 dB -19.66 dB 2:35 20-Barber: 2 Choruses, Op.8 - 2. Let down the bars, O death
DR15 -0.01 dB -21.94 dB 9:19 21-Thompson: Fare Well
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Number of tracks: 21
Official DR value: DR13

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 633 kbps
Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

Polyphony, Stephen Layton - American Polyphony: Barber, Bernstein, Copland, Thompson (2015)

All thanks to original releaser - A-Z

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