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  Telarc -
  Transmigration - Spano
  Barber: Adagio for Strings, Agnus Dei, Higdon: Dooryard Bloom, Corigliano: Elegy, Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls

Nmon Ford (baritone)
Gwinnett Young Singers
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Choruses
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Robert Spano (conductor)
Track listing:
Recording type:
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Reviews: 1

Review by sibelius2 November 10, 2009 (12 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The main attraction here is the Adams, but the other works certainly warrant a few words.

Barber's Adagio is easily his best-known work, and receives a very good performance here. I would have preferred that the violins in the climax actually play with less energy - it comes across as forceful rather than singing.

The Higdon receives its world premiere recording, and it's good to see this very talented composer given more attention. The opening of the work reminds one of Copland, but without sounding outright derivative. If anything, it establishes the work as unmistakably American. The orchestra and vocalist are very well balanced, and the engineers deserve credit for keeping this balance very organic-sounding (if they did anything at all.) It would be natural to compare this work to music by Hindemith based on the same poetry by Whitman, but I have not heard the Hindemith and will thus leave that to others.

The Corigliano is some truly beautiful music, although I do not consider it to be performed well on this recording. Too many missed opportunities: the notes beg to be sung out expressively, but instead are just played carefully. It makes the work come across as an afterthought, when it deserves better.

The Adams is, naturally, heartbreaking to listen to. No other recording could replace that made at the world premiere in New York in 2002, but much credit goes to all involved for bringing this project to life. The Atlanta forces do not play as muscularly as do the New York Phil, which in this context probably makes more sense musically. Again, voices are very naturally balanced against the orchestra. It almost never gets mentioned, but there is some truly awesome contrabassoon playing which is beautifully captured.

Where this recording truly stands out is in its use of multichannel. About half of the prerecorded sounds (voices, footfalls) come out of the rear speakers. The effect is downright eerie. The other half (more voices, sirens, street noises) come from the front left and right speakers but not the center. This allows the names and texts being read to be understood very clearly, and makes the two-channel New York recording seem cluttered by comparison. There are even moments when two different voices are speaking simultaneously, but one from in front and the other from behind, so both names come through perfectly, as though read by people sitting with you in different corners of the room.

Overall, a near-perfect disc, with half a star withheld for uninspired playing in the Corigliano.

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Works: 5  

John Adams - On the Transmigration of Souls
Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings
Samuel Barber - Agnus Dei, Op. 11
John Corigliano - Elegy
Jennifer Higdon - Dooryard Bloom