Choral Music

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sancha

Choral Music

Post by sancha » Thu Aug 25, 2005 5:39 pm

Besides Penderecki, what other composers of today write choral music that does not sound like a bad imitation of Palestrina? I mean music with all the good stuff--counterpoint, fugues, orchestra, tone painting, quartet of soloists, dramatic contrasts between higher and lower voices--that makes Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven so much fun! :D

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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Aug 25, 2005 6:08 pm

I question the premises of your post. First, there are composers who are still rightly if remotely inspired by Palestrina and Renaissance counterpoint in general without being "poor imitators" of them. (Some of these write the high end of more recent music for the Roman Catholic Church.)

Second, while all the things you mention no doubt add to the splendor of the great composers you mention, it is their titanic command of form that underlies their greatness. It is precisely of them that we can say that modern composers are likely to be more-or-less pale imitations. That is not to say that their music is not worthwhile, only that it must be taken on their own terms.

I will leave it to others to answer your question directly. I don't have much experience with whatever there might be going on in current concert choral music (my distinct impression is that very few new works are performed even as the ubiquitous one-shot premiere). And even very fine new church music is generally of the Gebrauchsmusik type and does not quite come up to the scale you imply.

I assume you are aware of the choral accomplishment of the best British composers of the last hundred years (Britten, Tippet, etc.), but frankly most of them are of a long-gone generation and can't be called "of today."

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

PJME
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choral music

Post by PJME » Fri Aug 26, 2005 5:17 am

I have no idea who are the american composers that write "good" music for chorus..today!(.Mr.Henning may have some answers there.)
In Europe the choral tradition is still strong and virtualy every country has organisations ,festivals...and composers interested in music for choirs.
The scandinavians (including the Baltic states)and the British are very strong in this field . Hungary, Rumania,Poland and Bulgaria have very activ choral traditions.
If you are familiar with the works of Penderecki, I suppose you've heard works by Poulenc, Britten, Rutter, Kodaly,Bartok....Carl Rutti,Frank Martin, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Veljo Tormis....?????
(Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy wrote little for chorus ,but what there is, is absolutely wonderful.)
To finish, 1 recommendation off the beaten tracks :Dutch composer Rudolf Escher (indeed, family of the famous artist M.C.Escher)

THE CHORAL WORKS OF RUDOLF ESCHER
NM Classics
Edison award
1 Songs of Love and Eternity Escher, Rudolf 12'38
These are the days when birds come back 3'20
Wild nights! 1'39
Heart, we will forget him! 1'58
The wind tapped like a tired man 3'06
To majke a prairie it takes a clover 2'30
2 From Poems, first and second series ,, 2'07
3 From Le vrai visage de la paix par Picasso et Eluard ,, 11'41
4 Ciel, air et vents ,, 11'59
Ode 3'37
Chanson 5'46
Sonnet 2'36
5 Three poems by W.H. Auden ,, 10'04
If I could tell you 3'38
A curse 3'24
Warm are the still and lucky miles 3'55
Netherlands Chamber Choir - Ed Spanjaard

Totale speelduur 49'16
NM 92057

Funenpark 1, 1018 AK Amsterdam
(tel) 020 3058900 (fax) 020 6733588

jbuck919
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Re: choral music

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 26, 2005 8:43 am

[quote="PJME"] I suppose you've heard works by Poulenc, Britten, Rutter, Kodaly,Bartok....Debussy[quote]

and Stravinsky and Faure. A bunch of fine, even great choral composers there. All, with the exception of Rutter, who is a different fish in the first place, seriously composers of yesterday.

Perhaps I was taking the original poster too literally.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Choral Music

Post by dulcinea » Fri Aug 26, 2005 12:24 pm

I would consider the mention of Penderecki as an unmistakable indication that Sancha has living composers in mind. Poulenc, Stravinskii and Britten left this plane of existence quite a while ago.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

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Post by MahlerSnob » Fri Aug 26, 2005 3:42 pm

There are many. Of the older crowd there are Ligety, Carter, and Pinkham. Peter Schikele, of PDQ Bach fame, has also written some very good "serious" choral music. The youngens are Eric Whitacre, Augusta Reed Thomas, William Hawley, Steven Stucky, Aaron Kernis, Thea Musgrave, Meredith Monk, etc.
The problem with composing for choruses today is that there aren't many professional choral groups which perform new music. Most of the ones that do exist are chamber choirs that specialize in early music, while some - such as Chanticleer, NY Choral Artists, etc. - perform some new music. There aren't any big choral groups like the Collegiate Chorale that are independent of symphony orchestras and perform wide varieties of music. Most choral writing today has to be done for school ensembles or churches, thus the composers attracted to writing for choruses aren't always the best composers around.
-Nathan Lofton
Boston, MA

WWBD - What Would Bach Do?

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Post by davidreece » Fri Aug 26, 2005 4:16 pm

There are numerous examples of noted living composers writing large-scale choral works. One of the most prominent Americans is of course, John Adams, whose Harmonium has enjoyed many performances. The original by the SF Symphony and Chorus is the best. His more recent El Nino was highly praised as well.

In Britain, one of the most creative young composers of choral music (as well as many other genres), is James MacMillan. Arvo Part had a recent recording with the Stockholm Symphony and chorus of new works that I found very moving.

The list goes on an on. You just have to do a little research and listening, and I'm sure you'll find something that will appeal.

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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 26, 2005 5:06 pm

MahlerSnob wrote: There aren't any big choral groups like the Collegiate Chorale that are independent of symphony orchestras and perform wide varieties of music.
This is simply wrong. There are numerous talented ensembles in major cities, and we must remember that the greatest works of Beethoven and Brahms were premiered entirely to their satisfaction (well, maybe we don't know with Beethoven) with fine amateur ensembles. College chorales are a captive audience for whatever music the conductor cares to present. In New York, every professional choral singer in the greatest pool of such in the world would fall over him or herself to be part of a significant peformance of a new work of stature.

I have to wonder how well you understand choral singers. We are maniacs. The problem is keeping us under control once you get us committed.

[/quote]

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Huckleberry » Sat Aug 27, 2005 4:48 am

jbuck919 wrote:
In New York, every professional choral singer in the greatest pool of such in the world would fall over him or herself to be part of a significant peformance of a new work of stature.

I have to wonder how well you understand choral singers. We are maniacs. The problem is keeping us under control once you get us committed.
jbuck919, since you are a choral maniac, how would you rate the choral groups in the DC area? (Let's eliminate some of the chanticleers that end up at the White House. :lol: )
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Aug 27, 2005 5:08 am

Huckleberry wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
In New York, every professional choral singer in the greatest pool of such in the world would fall over him or herself to be part of a significant peformance of a new work of stature.

I have to wonder how well you understand choral singers. We are maniacs. The problem is keeping us under control once you get us committed.
jbuck919, since you are a choral maniac, how would you rate the choral groups in the DC area? (Let's eliminate some of the chanticleers that end up at the White House. :lol: )
It's funny you would pick that area. My knowledge is a little old, but I always favored the Washington Bach Chorale (the only American group that was invited to perform in Leipzig, then in the DDR, at the Bach tercentenary). I still have their superb recording of the Bach motets, and once heard them in the B minor Mass. They were a little short on basses and for a long time I contemplated auditioning for them, but the commute from Columbia, MD, on a routine basis would have been just too much.

I know that Reilly Lewis eventually took over the Choral Arts Society. I am about five years out of touch and things do change. I was never much for the local choral society in its annual performance of the Brahms Requiem and five pieces of crap.

For a while, under DM whose name I shall not fully spell out, the Cathedral Choir fell into an alarming state of disrepair, but I did catch their stream of the installation of the new dean, and the combined choral forces of the Cathedral (I will not go into that ghastly gospel group) sounded like a great Anglican cathedral choir as they should.

In general, it seems to me that Washington has, or had, the best choral scene in the country. It is hard to imagine that it was not better in a few other cities, but I would have held up Washington against most of the nation anyway.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Huckleberry » Sat Aug 27, 2005 7:25 am

jbuck919 wrote:
It's funny you would pick that area.
I have family and musician friends there.
jbuck919 wrote:I know that Reilly Lewis eventually took over the Choral Arts Society. I am about five years out of touch and things do change. I was never much for the local choral society in its annual performance of the Brahms Requiem and five pieces of crap.
I think Norman Scribner took over.

For a while, under DM whose name I shall not fully spell out, the Cathedral Choir fell into an alarming state of disrepair, but I did catch their stream of the installation of the new dean, and the combined choral forces of the Cathedral (I will not go into that ghastly gospel group) sounded like a great Anglican cathedral choir as they should.
I don't know this group's work at all. But I have heard the Bach Chorale (Consort?) - the one that started up decades ago.
In general, it seems to me that Washington has, or had, the best choral scene in the country. It is hard to imagine that it was not better in a few other cities, but I would have held up Washington against most of the nation anyway.
That's what I thought, but I wanted the opinion of an expert. Thank you.
I finally know what I want to be when I grow up:
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in a hillside Mansion for Ancient Musicians.

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Post by MahlerSnob » Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:01 am

I didn't say there weren't any professional choral groups around. I simply said that the number of them that perform new music on a regular basis is fairly small. Take the Boston area choral scene, for example. We have the Cantata Singers, which will perform maybe one new choral work per season. We have the Handel and Haydn Society, who's historical job in the city has been to provide us with our Messiah and Elijah performances. Other than those and a select group of other standard choral works, they rarely do anything new. Then there is the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. The only time they do anything new or out of the ordinary is when the BSO does something new or out of the ordinary, and I don't have to tell you that it is very rare that a major orchestra will do a big new work that includes chorus: Too many people to pay on a gamble of whether or not it will sell tickets. Even though the TFC is a volunteer choir, they are very well taken care of and cost a fair amount to support.
After that there are college groups - the NEC Choir and the BU Choir. I will not discuss these in detail, as I'm a member of the NEC Chorus and thus am slightley biased, but these are both fine groups that perform most of the unusual choral music that is heard in Boston.
After that are the church choirs. There are a handful of very good church choirs in this area - Trinity, Church of the Advent, and Park St. come to mind - but their sole purpose is to perform liturgical music and it is rare that they even give concerts outside of services.

As I said, most choral writing today is done for amateur ensembles, church choirs, and college groups. There are professional ensembles that perform new music, but there aren't enough to support many composers. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with non-professional ensembles, but after a certain level it seems many composers loose interest in writing for these groups (unless they happen to pay well).
The issue isn't the singers. I am a choral singer (and conductor) and I know how enthusiastic real choristers are. It's an issue of finding good ensembles and conductors who will perform and repeat new compositions.
-Nathan Lofton
Boston, MA

WWBD - What Would Bach Do?

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:32 am

MahlerSnob wrote:As I said, most choral writing today is done for amateur ensembles, church choirs, and college groups. There are professional ensembles that perform new music, but there aren't enough to support many composers. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with non-professional ensembles, but after a certain level it seems many composers loose interest in writing for these groups (unless they happen to pay well).
The issue isn't the singers. I am a choral singer (and conductor) and I know how enthusiastic real choristers are. It's an issue of finding good ensembles and conductors who will perform and repeat new compositions.
NEC means New England Conservatory and BU Boston University. We might get a bunch of non-US posters here (the other board has gone quite international).

You have just stated, correctly, that Boston is a veritable Parnassus of choral singing. You have failed to demonstrate that this is in any way connected with the absence of great new choral literature. I maintain that it is the supply and not the demand side that determines the issue. Have you been handed score after score of some brilliant newly written work (like a Hollywood star overlooking scripts) and turned it down because, well, it just wasn't right for your choir? I doubt it.

There are two issues here. One is that, frankly, newer music is always going to be harder. Even Brahms apparently dumbed-down the German Requiem for the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, if we can believe that such a masterpiece is less than what it might have been.

But the other issue is that no one is writing anything of stature to stimulate the interest of the finest choral ensembles. Don't you think that if composer X said to Boston, "I want my work to be premiered here?" (imagine for the sake of argument that it was the ghost of Leonard Bernstein, or even Charles Ives) that every singer in Boston capable of doing it would instantly reconfigure the entire choral landscape at the expense of the mortgage on their house to do it?

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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