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A worthy memorial to William Ferris,
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Cedille    CDR 7001

William Ferris Chorale - Menotti: Missa O Pulchritudo; Vierne: Messe Solennelle. © 2006 Cedille Records

The sudden death of the conductor and composer William Ferris in 2000 at the age of 62 was a huge loss to music, and especially to the choral world. He co-founded his William Ferris Chorale in 1971 with tenor John Vorrasi, and has given performances around the world of an impressive number of works by living composers -- not least his own. But in addition to this being another worthy Ferris memorial, it also serves to brings us a vibrant performance of a work by Gian Carlo Menotti (unjustly maligned by so many so called critics) much of whose choral and instrumental music has been overshadowed by the deservedly popular operas. In Ferris's sad absence, Menotti lives on -- he is now 95. The recording of his Missa 'O Pulchritudo' is of a live performance, in the composer's presence, in Chicago, December 1982, and is a vibrant presentation of an extremely beautiful work.

The William Ferris Chorale is joined by the Composer Festival Orchestra and fine soloists, all of whom reveal themselves in the opening of the Gloria -- sopranos Joan Gibbons and Deborah Fair, the Chorale's co-founder John Vorrasi, and bass Thomas Sillitti [listen -- track 2, 0:00-0:43]. There is in this work so much glorious choral writing and sympathetically colourful orchestral accompaniment, that it is hard to submit the score to the extraction of examples, but the splendid ending to his setting of lines from the Confessions of Saint Augustine, with which Menotti replaces the Credo and which provides the title of the Mass, must be heard [listen -- track 3, 4:27-5:52] as also should the climactic moments toward the end of the Benedictus [listen -- track 4, 11:36-13:01].

Louis Vierne wrote his Messe Solennelle in 1899 to demonstrate the remarkable organ and acoustic of Notre Dame in Paris. The performance recorded here was given 1988 by the William Ferris Chorale and took place in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Chicago, with Thomas Weisflog playing the E M Skinner grand organ [listen -- track 6, 0:00-1:26] and Dexter Bailey the Visser-Rowland choir organ. Another powerful performance by the Chorale, gentle yet strong as in the Benedictus [listen -- track 8, 1:40-2:28] and in the impassioned Agnus Dei [listen -- track 10, 2:53-4:33].

Copyright © 9 January 2007 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


William Ferris Chorale - Menotti and Vierne

CDR 7001 ADD/DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 72'47" 2006 Cedille Records

Joan Gibbons, soprano (Menotti); Deborah Fair, mezzo (Menotti); John Vorrasi, tenor (Menotti); Thomas Sillitti, bass (Menotti); Composer Festival Orchestra (Menotti); Thomas Weisflog, grand organ (Vierne); Dexter Bailey, choir organ (Vierne); William Ferris Chorale; William Ferris, conductor

Gian Carlo Menotti (born 1911): Missa 'O Pulchritudo' (1979) (Kyrie; Gloria; Motet: O Pulchritudo; Sanctus and Benedictus; Agnus Dei); Louis Vierne (1870-1937): Messe Solennelle Op 16 (1899) (Kyrie; Gloria; Sanctus; Benedictus; Agnus Dei)


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