GILLIS: Portrait of a Frontier Town. The Alamo. Symphony No. 7: Saga of a Prairie School.
Sinfonia Varsovia/Ian Hobson, cond.

MESSIAEN: O sacrum convivium. TAVENER: Song for Athene. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Mass in G minor. DURUFLÉ: Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens, Op. 10. COPLAND: Four Motets, Op. 20. TALLIS: O sacrum convivium.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus/Norman Mackenzie, director
TELARC SACD 60654 TT: 54:21

CHRIS BRUBECK: Convergence. River of Song. Prague Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra.
Rachel Luxon, soprano; Frederica von Stade, mezzo-oprano; Tassajara Symphony/Sara Jobin, cond. (River of Song); Chris Brubeck, bass trombone; Czech Philharmonic Orch/Paul Freeman, cond.

the early '50s for Decca/London with the composer conducting (I long treasured these early LPs!). These brilliant new recordings by the virtuoso Sinfonia Varsovia are spectacularly played, and conductor Ian Hobson again shows his total understanding of the Gillis American idiom. These recordings were made in March and May 2005 in Studio S1 of the Polish Radio, engineered by Lech Dudzik and Gabriela Blicharz. They have done a magnificent job; this is one of the finest-sounding SACDs I've ever yeard, with rich, detailed orchestral sound that boasts solid bass, scintillating high frequencies, and a sense of space that should - and usually isn't - heard on surround sound recordings. The highest recommendation!

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is fortunate to have such fine choruses available for their performances. In addition to the regular Atlanta Symphony Orchestra chorus which was formed in 1970 by Robert Shaw and has about 200 singers, there is the ASO Chamber Chorus, founded in 1967 also by Shaw which focuses on music of the baroque, classical and 20th century. There are many Telarc recordings featuring these performers, and here is a collection with the Chamber Chorus that begins and ends with O sacrum convivium, first by Messiaen, lastly by Tallis. In between we have Vaughan Williams' Mass in G Minor, Duruflé's Four Motets on Gregorian Themes, and Four Motets by Aaron Copland. Norman Mackenzie, who has directed both choruses since the death of Robert Shaw in 1999, conducts these fine performances which were recorded June 19-21, 2005 in Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. The famous team of producer Robert Woods and engineer Jack Renner once again offers superb sonics. Complete texts are provided. It's unfortunate a few more selections weren't included—54:21 is rather short playing time.

The multi-talented Chris Brubeck (composer, arranger, conductor, singer, pianist, trombonist, guitarist, bassist) is that rare thing among contemporary composers—he writes music that people want to hear. Brubeck is a terrific orchestrator, evident in Convergence, a concerto for orchestra written in 2001 commissioned by the Boston Pops. There are three movements: The Journey, Reminiscence in Blues and Le Grande Parade du Funk, with off-stage marching band, antiphonal brass and a multitude of varied moods, and a constant sense of fun. Mezzo soprano Frederica von Stade commissioned the song cycle River of Song which is based on prize-winning poems written by children (complete texts are provided), and she sings them beautifully. To top it off, we have the "Prague" Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra, a dazzling venture into varied musical styles, brilliantly played by the composer. The surround sound is extraordinarily effective, with presence, warmth, wide dynamic range and perfect balance of instruments. Highly recommended!

I consider all three of these SACDs to be essential for those interested in surround sound.

R.E.B. (May 2006)