Missa Campanella

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Reuter Organ, Albuquerque
MISSA CAMPANELLA - Maxine Thévenot (Director and Organist) - Stephen Tharp (Organist) - The Cathedral Choirs of St. John, Albuquerque - 003469692625 - Released: February 2011 - Raven OAR-926

1 - Andrew Ager: Prélude et Fugue, Op. 30
2 - Andrew Ager: Missa Campanella
3 - Richard Shephard: Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies
4 - Fredrik Sixten: Toccata Festival
5 - Peter Hallock: Thy Word is a Lantern
6 - Ned Rorem: Mercy and Truth Are Met
7 - Mark Blatchly: Give Us the Wings of Faith
8 - Barry Rose: Morning Glory, Starlit Sky
9 - Michael Sitton: Tantum Ergo
10- June Nixon: O Salutaris Hostia
11- Geraint Lewis: The Souls of the Righteous
12- Mary Lynn Place Badarak: Ave Verum Corpus
13- Derek Holman: Prevent Us, O Lord
14- Jean-Yves Daniel-LeSur: In Paradisum
15- Maurice Duruflé: In Paradisum [from his Requiem]
16- Eleanor Daley: Missa Brevis No. 4

A few seconds into this CD and you quickly realize that you're in for an entertaining hour. It opens with a vibrant and technically challenging organ work by Ottawa-born Canadian composer Andrew Ager (1962-), which along with his Missa Campanella that follows, are presented here as world premiere recordings. This Prélude et Fugue, Op. 30 is performed with plenty of character by Canadian-born organist Maxine Thévenot who is now the director of music at the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque, New Mexico, where this recording takes place. The impressive organ on which she, and guest organist Stephen Tharp play, is an Op. 2210 Reuter Organ built in 2002. It boasts 3800 pipes and a varied range of over 102 stops, 4 of which are 32' stops including an Ophecleide. It's the largest pipe organ in New Mexico. The title piece of this CD, the Missa Campanella, opens in an almost Gregorian style within the Kyrie, but quickly reveals its present day roots in the Gloria that follows, especially with its use of distant harmonics in the organ part. The Sanctus is adorned with a beautiful and uplifting melody in the choral writing, all performed with spirit by the Cathedral Choir.

Another first recording, is the organ work Toccata Festival by Swedish composer Fredrik Sixten (1962-), which masterfully blends melodic invention and fluidity with modern extremes. The anthem Thy Word is a Lantern by American Peter Hallock (1924-) may be short, but it is so well conceived and harmonically polished at the end, that it leaves an impression. Frequently recorded and performed, composer Ned Rorem's Mercy and Truth Are Met is yet another fine example of a simple and yet beautiful melody masterfully combined with harmonic invention and clever voicing.

The a cappella piece by Barry Rose, here performed by the Cathedral Chamber Choir and the Cathedral Choristers, is evidence of this composer's extensive experience in choral writing and directing. It flows along with an ease that clearly demonstrates that sometimes you don't need to overdo things to get your message across. The inspired The Souls of the Righteous by Geraint Lewis (1958-), with its steadfast heavenly gaze and devout delivery, is the kind of choral work you wish would go on forever. The ending alone, with its delayed harmonic resolution, both simple and sublime, is of the goosebump variety. Stephen Tharp's subdued organ accompaniment on this one is extremely well done. Those soft and sustained pedal notes provide the desired effect.

Whereas Maurice Duruflé needs no elucidation on my part, French composer Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur, sometimes written down as Daniel-Jean-Yves Lesur (1908-2002) certainly does. Among his friends and influences are many composers whose works were infused with a combination of spiritual, philosophical and metaphysical subject matter, such as Messiaen, Tournemire and Jolivet. This organ piece titled In Paradisum, certainly fits that profile with its open harmonies and modalities reminiscent of the Middle Ages, and deep sense that the message lives within the music itself. The complete opposite, musically speaking, to the opening work by Ager. The program concludes with a short Mass by another Canadian composer, Eleanor Daley, whose output is mostly comprised of choral music. This is another fine a cappella setting, again very well sung by the Cathedral Chamber Choir.

If you admire choral music, or organ music for that matter, and are always looking for something new to add to your collection, this recording is a must. It is a fine overview of recent works, some even recorded for the first time, but works that are firmly rooted in tradition, and that speak directly to the heart. The people at Raven, should be applauded for having the conviction and devotion to keep recording music like this, for all to enjoy on this musical planet.

Jean-Yves Duperron - February 2011