Eric Whitacre, better known in his native USA, came relatively late to classical music; he was converted by Mozart’s Requiem at college, where he joined the choir to meet girls. He went on to study at Juilliard under Corigliano and David Diamond, during which time he wrote Go, lovely rose (1991). It’s now a repertoire staple for US choirs, and it’s easy to hear why: a setting of a 17th-century poem, it’s gentle, melodious and subtly coloured.
Since then he has focused on setting modern poetry, particularly that of e e cummings and Octavio Paz, although the longest piece here, When David heard (1999), uses a verse from the Book of Samuel. Sleep originally used Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by woods on a snowy evening but legal action by Frost’s estate forced Whitacre to abandon the text. Charles Anthony Silvestri composed a new text, a worthy substitute for Frost’s poem, to match the music, and it works well.
This beautifully performed and recorded CD contains the bulk of Whitacre’s choral canon and displays his delicate yet vital approach to writing for voices. I guess if you like Tavener (or Pärt, who is strongly evoked in David), you’ll enjoy Whitacre.