Chamber Cantatas and Trio Sonatas by Telemann
Here's a delightful disc of baroque music from Musica Pacifica. Some of North America's finest early music specialists, the ensemble's members are drawn from the renowned Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and American Bach Soloists. The icing on the cake is delivered by soprano Christine Brandes and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane. Their voices are wonderful, their technique so accomplished that the most florid of passages are sung with ease.
The two sonatas and five cantatas on this well-recorded disc derive from the first 15 years that Telemann worked for the city of Hamburg. A far cry from Telemann's more elaborate and complex pieces, the works are simple in form, alternating joyful movements with those more serious in nature. It's not as profound as Bach's music—it's doubtful that it will change your life—but if you're in the mood for a treat, or a baroque background, this will most certainly satisfy. Jason Serinus
DENVER WOMEN'S CHORUS
Where I Live
This 35-minute oratorio about breast cancer alternates seven choral movements with six passages for solo narrator. The profound text, drawn primarily from writings by women with breast cancer, brilliantly reflects the many dimensions of the disease, with sections devoted to diagnosis, caregiving, healing, and corporate complicity. Written for women's community choruses, the slow-paced oratorio places only modest demands upon singers and instrumental accompanists, employing simple harmonies that allow balance and peace to emerge from suffering.
The performance, alas, does not adequately communicate the achievement of Diane Benjamin, who wrote the oratorio. The opening soloist's voice is less than pleasant, and the higher-scored choral passages expose unsteadiness. The distracting tendency to intersperse exaggerated consonants with unclear enunciation is also in evidence. Nonetheless, the disc, whose sale supports several Colorado breast cancer organizations, touches the heart and will help this fine oratorio receive many performances. It is available for $15 (plus $3 shipping and handling) from Denver Women's Chorus, P. O. Box 2638, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 274-4177, www.denverwomenschorus.org. Jason Serinus
NEW WORLD SYMPHONY
Tuck and Roll: The Music of Steven Mackey
Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas calls Steve Mackey's music "wacky." The composer embraces the concept, expanding its definition to include weird, quirky, and offbeat composition that features humorous material with a "mercurial continuity." It's the kind of music you might expect from someone who, in the late '60s, spent six- to eight-hour stretches providing electric guitar accompaniment for his older brothers during their extended LSD explorations.
Mackey's music is young and brash, the orchestral colors as startlingly seductive as all the patterns that come upon you when you drop. And it's a good trip. Tuck and Roll, an electric guitar concerto featuring Mackey as soloist, is all over the place. This music is perfect for MTT's youthful New World Symphony, established as a training academy for gifted graduates of music schools. Hats off to them, as well as to the recording and mixing engineers; this disc is great. Jason Serinus