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Review: Premieres by Counterpoint

April 19, 2009

Review of Counterpoint’s new album Premieres released by Albany Records.

It’s natural to be wary of a ‘new premiere’ by a composer who has a substantial amount of music that’s been recorded – the has to be a reason why its been overlooked.  Thankfully, Counterpoint’s new album of premieres, featuring a work by Leonard Bernstein bucks your fearful assumption.  The best part is that not only is it good, but all the other music on the album is even better…

Counterpoint Chorus really put together a winner with this album.  Combining great singing with great music is a total win win for everyone.  The choir, conducted by Robert de Comier’s crisp hand, present works by Bernstein, Louis Moyse, Paul Alan Levi, and Mario Cestlnuovo-Tedesco.  Each work shows off the choir’s rhythmic vitality and awesome resonance.

The Bernstein is a bizarre piece of music.  Entitled Choruses from The Lark (The Life of Joan of Arc), it is section of a larger stage work.  The music is all really well done.  Bernstein’s music is generally very chameleon like – able to take on different shapes and colors while still sounding like Bernstein.  In these short pieces, he takes on a medieval sound to match the time period of the story.  All of the music is really good and performed well.  That said, the shortness of the music and spoken word interludes really disrupts the flow.  Solfege a la francaise is the second work and is a really fun choral interpretation of a French Dance Suite.  All of the works are done using Solfege, with the exception of one, which is hummed.  Both of these works show off a brilliant amount of rhythmic energy that is not often enough heard from choirs. 

The two works following, Bye Bye Toots and Romancero Gitano are similar in a number of ways – both use a guitar for accompaniment, are classical pieces incorporating other styles, and continue the rhythmic pep of the earlier selections, but in a little more subtle of a way.  Bye, Bye Toots– a piece in remembrance of poet Burt Chernow is a joyous, jazzy work.  Romancero…is a Spanish work of texts by Garcia-Lorca that has moments of pain and celebration in it.  Both, well, the entire album, are definitely recommended listens.

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