Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Primosch Sacred Songs Fascinating Blend of Old and New
Susan Narucki, soprano
William Sharp, baritone
21st Century Consort
Christopher Kendall, conductor
"Sacred Songs" these are, but they're not the comfortable platitudes of ordinary church music. James Primrosch draws from many sources to create works that are indeed deeply spiritual, often thought-provoking, and always demanding the listener's full attention.
From a Book of Hours, for example, is angular and aggressive, but with an almost retro-sounding atonality in some movements. The music matches the unsettled and conflicted musings of the narrator's relationship with God. By contrast, Four Sacred Songs is a more elegiac work, drawing on sacred music traditions of the past to create music that sounds both contemporary and timeless.
Dark the Star has a somewhat mysterious air about it, especially as sung by William Sharp. Sharp seems to be holding back his dark, baritone voice, as if refraining from revealing too much. But his performance fits the dark, nocturnal nature of the work. The program concludes with Holy the Firm, a beautiful and lyrical solo cantata. The work's spacious sound and wide-open intervals remind me a little of Copland or Barber in spots.
Soprano Susan Narucki has very expressive voice. It can have a rich, creamy sound in the lyrical passages, yet still develop a steely edge when necessary for the more dissonant sections.
Christopher Kendall and the 21st Century consort are in top form. Of the four works on this album, only one was originally scored for chamber orchestra, and it's the only one whose chamber orchestra version wasn't premiered by the Consort. This ensemble knows these works intimately -- and it's apparent in their performances.