Choral music reccommendations?
October 18, 2005 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Choral music reccommendations?

I love choral music but don't have any recordings. The internet isn't a good guide to what are the best choral recordings out there, or where to start. I've been craving it lately so I need suggestions, given the great classical mefite advice that I've seen in the past .

I have sung extensively in school choirs and am studying music privately right now, so I don't need the simplest of introductions. I am interested in female choirs (since that is mostly my experience), then satb, but not male choirs. Size doesn't matter, although I feel like there must be some smaller choirs out there doing amazing work; that all the quality does not reside in the large professional choirs. Classical music, no pop arranged for choirs.

What are some great recordings of stunning choral music?
posted by scazza to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

posted by brownpau at 11:30 AM on October 18, 2005

Eric Whitacre: The Complete A Cappella Works, 1991-2001, the Brigham Young University Singers.

His choral compositions are stunning. Samples can be found here. Pure choral bliss.
posted by Buzz at 11:53 AM on October 18, 2005

Disclaimer: I used to sing with them as a teenager, but if you like female choirs you will appreciate Cantamus. Of the recordings listed on their site, I would recommend Micheal Neaum's arrangements or, since it's that time of year, Christmas with Cantamus.

Try listening to samples from a couple of tracks from the former and see if you like it.

For something very different, very polished and very marketed, but often very thrilling, have you ever listened to Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares?
posted by suleikacasilda at 12:08 PM on October 18, 2005

Poulenc's Gloria and Stabat Mater.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:11 PM on October 18, 2005

The Douglas Frank Chorale recorded all the madrigals and chansons from Schirmer's "The A Cappella Singer".
posted by klarck at 12:32 PM on October 18, 2005

Cambridge Singers' (and John Rutter) There Is Sweet Musicstyle=" - the title track and The Bluebird alone are worth the price of admission.
posted by DandyRandy at 12:40 PM on October 18, 2005

Mass to St. Anthony/Berliner Messe, performed by the Oregon Repertory Singers is amazing.
posted by cmonkey at 12:42 PM on October 18, 2005

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Vigilia for mixed chorus is quite something.
posted by misteraitch at 1:16 PM on October 18, 2005

I've always liked Rene Clausen's arrangments and compositions, my favorites being Tonight, Eternity Alone and Set me as a Seal, both of which can be found on The Choral Music of Rene Clausen.
posted by sarahnade at 1:39 PM on October 18, 2005

I second Eric Whitacre. That recording Buzz mentioned is easily one of the best out there.

You might also look at Brigham Young University's other CDs. I'm biased, because I sang there, but their top-notch choral program was one of the reasons I chose to attend. Unfortunately, not all their best stuff has distribution, but A Thanksgiving of American Folk Hymns is great, and Beautiful River has more good Eric Whitacre on it. Too bad they left off the Stephen Paulus. I'm having trouble finding good recordings of his work.

Collegium Records is the label that John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers record under. Some people find Rutter a bit insipid or even pop-ish on some of his works, and the choir definitely has that European sound, but I like both. At any rate, I think they're perfect for doing old-world stuff like William Bryd and Palestrina and Thomas Tallis... to that end, I recommend Faire is the Heaven. If you want to try Rutter's own compositions, pick either Gloria or his Requiem. If you want something a bit more modern, try their Poulenc recording.

The Fern Hill American Choral Music recording is pretty good.

I've been looking for some good recordings of Frank Martin's Mass, Sid Robinovitch's Talmud Suite, William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, and anything Healy Willan. If anybody has recommendations, I'd love to hear them. If not, I recommend the works, I just am not sure what recordings are good yet. Maybe we could all go look. :)

I've also got a few things that aren't well published that I'd be willing to share if people want to contact me.
posted by weston at 1:50 PM on October 18, 2005

Byrd, Ave Verum Corpus, with the Tallis Scholars. For something totally different (not sure if this is what you're looking for), Verdi's Requiem with Carlo Maria Guilini conducting. Also, many Bach cantatas - offhand, #78 is a beautiful one to start with. I can't think of a "best" recording of that, though.
posted by walla at 1:57 PM on October 18, 2005

If stuff with orchestra is ok, then Berstein's Chichester Psalms is one of the most beautiful works ever written.
posted by Lotto at 2:22 PM on October 18, 2005

A repertoire suggestion: Britten's Ceremony of Carols.

There are lots of good boys' choir recordings out there. (Shame Cantamus never recorded it.) It's one of my favourite pieces of music, ever. I imagine this recording might be very good, and it includes some other Britten classics.
posted by suleikacasilda at 3:03 PM on October 18, 2005

At any rate, I think they're perfect for doing old-world stuff like William Byrd and Palestrina and Thomas Tallis...

Old-world stuff? LOL. Probably the most perfect choral music ever written.

My 101 (though you seem to be beyond that) would include listening to these greats as "standards" along with the orchestral choral things like the Verdi Requiem and Handel's Messiah. Plus lots of 20th century stuff. I personally find Byrd more gripping than Palestrina or Tallis, but you have to hear Tallis' O Nata Lux one day.

Since you did ask about choirs, and I mentioned boys' choirs, you might want to ascertain your taste. Many people find a choir like Westminster Cathedral a bit messy-sounding, compared to King's College, for example, but traditionally they have a more Italian, biting sound. Other people want the smoothness and roundness of all-adults, like the Tallis Scholars. (For a lot of repertoire, I do too.) I often don't like massed choirs, since they can be wooly and flat, but the exceptions are tremendously exciting. Browse or ask in classical Usenet/email groups for recommendations of recordings of the heydays of some of the great British choirs in the big choral repertoire.

Incidentally, for Spem in Alium and other mega-polyphony, I have been returning to Utopia Triumphans for many years now. The odd individual voice occasionally goes a little off, but the overall engineering, audibility of individual parts and sense of live performance is very exciting, and the recording contains some truly amazing repertoire I have never heard or sung elsewhere.
posted by suleikacasilda at 3:42 PM on October 18, 2005

I don't know of a specific recording that's best, but Samuel Barber's 'Reincarnations" is a personal choral favorite.
posted by al_fresco at 4:48 PM on October 18, 2005

I'll second the suggestions of Whitacre and Clausen found above.

Definitely check out Morton Lauridsen; he's doing really significant work. Some CDs featuring his music are: Lux Aeterna (featuring the Los Angeles Master Chorale), Lauridsen: The Complete Choral Cycles, Northwest Journey. I own all of these and can vouch for their radness.

Also, you might want to try listening to the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Glorious stuff. A good starter CD is De Profundis, featuring an ensemble conducted by Paul Hilliard.

And speaking of Barber, this Robert Shaw recording features a breathtaking choral version of his Adagio for Strings which uses the Agnus Dei as a text.

I'll stop here... I'm a choral director, so I could go on all night.
posted by the_bone at 5:38 PM on October 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

The Tallis Scholars' recording of the above-mentioned 'Spem In Alium' is amazing.

As is their version of Josquin des Prez's 'L'Homme Arme' masses. (The missa sexti toni is particularly mind-blowing.)

For something a bit later: Tomas Luis de Victoria's 'Officium Defunctorum'. (I'm fond of the Gabrieli Consort version of this.)

Speaking of the Gabrieli Consort, I've also really enjoyed in the past their Christmas Mass in Rome disc.
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:57 PM on October 18, 2005

Octarium. Renee is a friend, but I think I'm objective enough to say that their music is more than worthy of your attention absent of that fact.
posted by melissa may at 6:03 PM on October 18, 2005

Here's a second on Arvo Pärt. I also like Michael Nyman, but he's not for everyone.

The old standbys: Bach Magnificat and Gloria.

If you want something really experimental, check out Nicholas Lens' Flamma Flamma, A Fire Requiem.
posted by jimfl at 7:09 PM on October 18, 2005

I will second the recommendations for Poulenc and also Robert Shaw...

I will suggest Randall Thompson's Frostiana suite, based on the poetry of Robert Frost... And the Chichester Psalms by Bernstein.
posted by RockyChrysler at 7:27 PM on October 18, 2005

For something altogether scarier there are György Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna and Requiem. Also well worth a listen, is this fascinating disc of contemporary choral compositions by the contemporary Lithuanian composer Rytis Mazulis.
posted by misteraitch at 1:40 AM on October 19, 2005

Response by poster: Wow, thank you everyone for all these really substantial suggestions. I don't know what I could mark as a best answer since these are all so great.

I have heard some of these like Arvo Pärt and Messiah, and feel like some I have even sung myself, but generally it's going to take me a wonderful while to listen to everything here. I'll email any of you for whom I have follow up questions.
posted by scazza at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2005

Very late update, but have you seen this page of links to choral excerpts online?
posted by suleikacasilda at 10:58 AM on October 29, 2005

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