Below are three reviews of the Transient Glory II CD:
April 9, 2008
Transient Glory II = Works of MACHOVER, SHENG, HYMAN, ARGENTO, DEL TREDICI & others - John Holden, piano/ Perspectives Ensemble/ Extension Ensemble/ Young People’s Chorus of New York City/ Francisco J. Nunez, conductor – Vital Records
A children’s chorus, but don’t touch that dial!
Transient Glory II = WEIR: Little tree; I carry your heart with me; now is a ship; MACHOVER: I Dreamt a Dream; BURGON: Shirtless Stephen (and the Children’s Crusade); VIGELAND: Miracles; SHENG: The Boatmen’s Song; LEES: The Nervous Family; PAPOULIS: Panta Rhei; JAMES: NYC Playground; NYMAN: A Child’s View of Color; ARGENTO: Orpheus; DEL TREDICI: Four Heartfelt Anthems – John Holden, piano/ Perspectives Ensemble/ Extension Ensemble/ Young People’s Chorus of New York City/ Francisco J. Nunez, conductor – Vital Records VR2017 (www.ypc.org), 77:36 *****:
Don’t let the fact that this is a young person’s chorus turn you off to this remarkable recital. As you can see in the heading, the composer list is quite formidable, and this album contains some incredible music that is rendered with love and highly competent execution. Judith Weir’s Little Tree trilogy contains some breathtakingly beautiful music, while some other pieces, like Kevin James’s NYC Playground are far grittier and realistic in their depictions of contemporary life through the eyes and ears of children. Benjamin Lees taps into the child (and adult) psyche by talking us through the Nervous Family, where the sounds and syllables of the texts are mimicked to outlandish effect in the music as well.
These are just a few of the highlights on a disc that has nothing but highlights. The recorded sound is very clear and concise; perhaps just a little stuffy - would have benefited from some more ambiance, even though the recording was made at the 92nd Y in New York City. This ensemble has been around since 1988 and is one of the finest of its kind anywhere in the world, also the resident choir of the “Y” and of WNYC, New York’s top public radio station. Conductor Francisco J. Nunez has done an amazing job with the 61-member ensemble, and this disc is so far one of my top picks of the year. I cannot tell you how surprised I am by that.
-- Steven Ritter
Choir & Organ Review
Transient Glory II
Young People's Chorus of New York City / Francisco J. Núñez (dir)
Vital Records VR 2017 77'36''
Performed with vigour and freshness, this disc contains eleven recent commissions from this large youth choir, ranging from the delicate and understated (Judith Weir's Little Tree) to the dramatic (Tod Machover's I Dreamt a Dream with electro-acoustic accompaniment), and from the humorous (Benjamin Lees's The Nervous Family) to the cross-cultural (Bright Sheng's The Boatmen's Song): varied and often challenging music, performed with verve and colour - truly displaying what Núñez calls the 'transient glory' of youthful voices. Other composers include Nyman, Argento and Del Tredici, and there is a strong collage piece by Kevin James which grew out of a project in New York City's 'poorest and most undeserved' neighbourhoods. Despite signs of over-enthusiasm in the singing at times, there is a great deal to enjoy in this enterprising disc.
May 2, 2008
TRANSIENT GLORY II
Works by Judith Weir, Geoffrey Burgon, Tod Machover, Bright Sheng, Michael Nyman, Dominick Argento, David Del Tredici, others
Young People's Chorus of New York City
Vital Records- VR2017(CD)
No Reference Recording
In this follow-up to its 2003 Transient Glory CD Francisco Nuñez and his Young People's Chorus of New York City offer another impressive slate of new compositions presented in similarly savvy, stylish, technically proficient performances. The "children's choir" movement over the last 25 years or so has seen the rise of dozens of world-class ensembles that attract and commission works from major composers--as we hear on this new release, which features pieces "premiered by the chorus between 2002 and 2004."
Highlights--which for me are the works in which the composer seems to truly understand and capture the uniqueness of these voices, selects carefully and elucidates the chosen texts, and gives the choir some really "singable", attractive music to sing--are Judith Weir's Little Tree (texts by e.e. cummings, with a cleverly written marimba accompaniment), Tod Machover's I Dreamt a Dream (from William Blake, which effectively employs electronic sounds), Geoffrey Burgon's Shirtless Stephen (and the Children's Crusade), with its wonderful Britten-esque melody and text/rhythm treatment, and Benjamin Lees' delightful take on Edward Lear's humorous poem The Nervous Family. In each of these pieces, the choir really shines with vibrant energy and a confident, commanding vocal presence.
Some of the featured works make more of an impression for their difficulty than for their attractiveness or effectiveness as vocal music--indeed Michael Nyman's A Child's View of Color might as well be an instrumental work; the vocal writing renders most of the words unintelligible and creates a vocal timbre that just sounds strained. In addition--and this also was true on the earlier recording--the weird balances between choir and instruments (especially so in the Nyman work) only detract from what we should be hearing from the singers. Nils Vigeland's Miracles and Bright Sheng's The Boatmen's Song are both busy, challenging works, but they seem more consumed by their structural and thematic ideas than with giving the audience music to look forward to hearing again. Kevin James' NYC Playground just seems contrived and too long for its material--and again, the strange miking and odd balances undo the whole thing.
There's more here, including fine works by Jim Papoulis (an experienced composer for youth choirs) and Dominick Argento (his first work for young voices!)--and a mixed bag from David Del Tredici, a set of four pieces that includes the bizarre Sabbath's Child and a wonderful, nifty "fuga" based on the Alphabet text from the 1727 New England Primer. (Bizarre also is the word for Del Tredici's own descriptions of his music, which he says normally is "larger-than-life", but for this he had to "distill myself down.")
As with the first Transient Glory disc, this is a must for choir fans who wish to be close to the latest happenings in one of today's most exciting, endlessly inventive, and uniquely challenging (for both singers and audiences) areas of music creation and performance. Happily for those who want to take this further, all of this music has been published, and information about the composers and where to obtain the scores is provided in the detailed liner booklet. On to Volume 3!