Some of the most fertile musical soil in the world today is in the mouths of singers.
Every new CD to preview for Sacred Classics that lands on my desk is like another Christmas present, a holiday that apparently lasts all year long for me. What is particularly wonderful is just how much new music is being written and performed regularly by choirs around the world.
The culture is so different from that of the orchestra or opera, where you’re deemed “innovative” if you include new music on a concert here and there. In choral concerts, though, the experience of new music is expected and even anticipated, along with a healthy dose of the works we know and love.
The new releases from this past year that I’ve been putting on Sacred Classics reflect that sensibility, even when dealing with music of antiquity. There are a few straight-ahead classics represented in top-notch performances in the stacks of new CDs from 2013, but the number of new works or newly discovered works or premiere recordings of ancient works is staggering.
The list includes...
- Incredible performances of standard repertoire: Latvian Radio Choir singing Rachmaninov’s "All-Night Vigil"; The Monteverdi Choir and The English Baroque Soloists performing cantatas by Bach;
- Stunning performances of newly rediscovered works: Rheinische Kantorei and Das Kleine Konzert performing an oratorio from 1829 by Ferdinand Ries; a premiere recording of a Te Deum by Hubert Parry from a collection comprised almost completely of first-ever recordings of Parry’s works by the BBC National Chorus of Wales;
- Breathtaking new works: The Westminster Williamson Voices performing "Annelies" by James Whitbourn, the first-ever major choral setting of "The Diary of Anne Frank"; The London Oratory School Schola and the London Mozart Players performing a collection of brand new music by British composer Roxanna Panufnik.
Next week, I’ll publish the entire list of my picks for the best recordings from 2013 that I’ve featured on Sacred Classics, including my picks from last week. Until then, I hope you’ll join me Sunday morning for Part Two of the retrospective, and hear just how good 2013 sounded.
Sacred Classics airs 6-10 a.m. Sundays on CPR Classical. Listen online at cprclassical.org.