Songs of Peace and Praise: Choral Music from Queens College
The title of this elegant new disc tells much about the nature of the repertoire. The subtitle is less specific: ‘Choral Music from Queens College’. While the eight composers represented all serve or served on the faculty at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, CUNY, their music has nothing in common other than expert craftsmanship and depth of feeling.
Stylistically, these creative voices travel in numerous directions as they forge expressive and lively settings of sacred and secular texts. The most well-known figure is the Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng, who earned his master’s at Queens College in 1984 and served as Visiting Distinguished Artist in Residence in 2010, when he wrote his Two Folk Songs from Qinghai – abounding in colourful and piquant ideas – for the Queens College Choir.
But every work makes an impact. Three pieces by David Schober, the school’s current director, are glistening examples of massed choral writing, while Bruce Saylor’s Missa Constantiae and Ave Maria thrust ancient texts exquisitely into contemporary contexts. Short selections by Hugo Weisgall, Allen Brings, Leo Kraft and Joel Mandelbaum attest to the compositional skills of the Queens College faculty, with Edward Smaldone’s L’infinito standing out for its adventurous harmonic language and deft evocation of an Italian landscape.
The music isn’t the only distinction here from the Copland School of Music. The vibrant performances are sung by the Queens College Choir and Vocal Ensemble or by the New York Virtuoso Singers, led by Queens alumnus Harold Rosenbaum.