Stephen Paulus was an astonishingly prolific fixture of the American music scene, with some 600 works to his credit. His sudden death in 2014 left classical music—particularly the worlds of opera and choral music—significantly the poorer, so it’s inevitable that we should see his legacy memorialised with new additions to the catalogue. Royal Holloway’s ‘Calm on the Listening Ear of Night’ sets Paulus’s music in dialogue with another Midwestern composer, René Clausen. It’s Clausen whose musical personality emerges most strongly here in these precise performances. His works offer a distinctively American spin on the fashionable Baltic sound world of Ešenvalds and Vasks that is as appealing as it is generous. In pace, which opens the disc, offers eight minutes of lushly filmic excess.
John Holloway and Davitt Moroney have set up a musically rewarding partnership in these brilliantly inventive works, furthermore adding to their programme the two lovely sonatas for violin and continuo long attributed to Bach, and justly so. In both of them they are joined by Susan Sheppard (continuo cello). For these sonatas Moroney has preferred a chamber organ to a harpsichord.
"Good to get, if you can find it. Holloway with Lonnie Smith on organ and George Benson on guitar. Tunes like "Big Fat Lady" and "Good and Groovy."". An exuberant player with attractive tones on both tenor and alto, Red Holloway was also a humorous blues singer. Whether it be bop, blues, or R&B, Holloway held his own with anyone. Holloway played in Chicago with Gene Wright's big band (1943-1946), served in the Army, and then played with Roosevelt Sykes (1948) and Nat Towles (1949-1950), before leading his own quartet (1952-1961) during an era when he also recorded with many blues and R&B acts…
The Choir of Royal Holloway have proved themselves as inspirational performers of contemporary Baltic music through their previous recordings. The main work on this fascinating album is based on Estonian folk hymns, an unusual variant of folk melodies, collected in the early twentieth century for the first time by Cyrillus Kreek, who was the Estonian equivalent of Bartók or Grainger. Most of these religious folk songs were originally eighteenth-century Lutheran hymns which have been passed across generations and embellished with elements of secular folk-singing. During the Soviet regime, the singing of these religious songs was forbidden and this cultural genre was all but forgotten. By the end of the twentieth century fresh light could be shone on these folk collections, and Tõnu Kõrvits (born 1969) was particularly struck by the fresh possibilities and newly discovered meanings of folk hymns. In writing Kreek’s Notebook Kõrvits pays homage to Cyrillus Kreek while presenting a contemporary view of folk hymns. Although there is a dramatic unity to this eight-movement work, there is much diversity in timbre and scoring. The effect is improvisatory in the creative ornamentation of the vocal lines, and suffused with dreamy textures that bring to mind the great tradition of Eastern European choral writing.
The Swede Bo Hansson is a man of many talents: a guitarist, and a composer of a wide range of music in folk and jazz idioms. Choral music might be a relatively recent departure for him but its roots run deep, back to the days of his childhood when he sang as a treble in his local choir. He has observed that ‘the human voice is the closest you can come to your soul’ and in that search he writes music that demands much of its performers in its sustained intensity of sound, a penchant for a cappella and a fresh way with word-setting even in the most established of texts, as in the darting energy of the Gloria from the Missa brevis.
John Holloway's recital of mid 17th century music mines the rich sonic possibilities of a highly unusual instrumental combination: baroque violin with basso continuo provided by harpsichord and organ played simultaneously by two musicians, both realising the figured bass to the full harmonic, contrapuntal and rhythmic potential of their instruments. Aloysia Assenbaum and Lars Ulrik Mortensen brilliantly support Holloway's exhilarating account of Bertali's "Chiacona" and move with him through the mysteries of Schmelzer's "Sonatae Unarum Fidium". (ecmrecords.com)