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Occasionally beautiful

The sacred choral music of Robert Evett, explored by RON BIERMAN

innova    innova 555

The Sacred Choral Music of Robert Evett. © 2001 American Composers Forum

In the middle of the twentieth century American composer Robert Evett received many commissions from musical organizations in the Washington DC area and his work was often performed. He was successful as both a musician and a writer, receiving two Pulitzer prize nominations, one for composition and a second for literary commentary. Since his death in 1975 he has all but disappeared from view. He isn't listed in The New Grove and appears only infrequently on CD, usually as one of several composers in a piano recital.

Evett's output includes symphonies, concertos and numerous chamber and choral works. His best known teacher was Roy Harris with whom he studied for six years. Harris's influence, however, isn't apparent in the serious, austere and occasionally beautiful music on this disk. That is perhaps because of the source of inspiration, ceremonies of the Catholic church. The music is unassuming. Even the Alleluia from Propers for the First Mass of Christmas is subdued [listen -- track 11, 1:07-2:00]. These are straightforward, contemporary settings for services conducted daily or on holidays such as Lent and Christmas. The compositions are competent and there are some lovely moments, but there's little to make the program memorable for typical listeners. The disk won't be leading to an Evett revival.

That certainly is not the fault of Musikanten, a fine choral ensemble that is approaching a thousand appearances since its founding in 1979. The group deserves more recording opportunities. It here includes nineteen male and female voices under the direction of Kerry Krebill. They blend beautifully with crisp attacks and exquisite dynamic control. Most selections are sung a cappella with few solos. Keith Reas adds a welcome organ accompaniment on several pieces. Texts are in English and provided in full in the album notes.

I'm always happy to see recordings of neglected composers and am mildly curious about Evett's secular compositions. I'm sure his approach to a concerto, for example, must have been quite different. Unlike many more popular twentieth century religious choral works however, those recorded here will probably appeal primarily to specialists, either those interested in the original religious contexts or choral enthusiasts partial to fine technique regardless of repertoire.

Copyright © 8 February 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, California, USA


Musikanten - Sacred Choral Music of Robert Evett

innova 555 circle surround 69'38" 2001 American Composers Forum

Musikanten; Gerald A Stacy, cantor; Keith Reas, organ; Kerry Krebill, director

Prime; What an attractive thing is judgement; Propers for the first mass of Christmas; Vespers; Four Marian Antiphons; Compline


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews