Press

Sun, August 25, 2002

Julian Wachner is orchestrating a new music festival
The Providence Journal

We’ve got WaterFire, Downcity and the mall.  Could it be that Providence is ready for a major classical music festival along the lines of Charleston’s Spoleto?  Conductor-composer Julian Wachner says yes.  And if anyone can pull it off, it’s probably Wachner, who during the past six seasons, has molded the once ragtag Providence Singers into a top-flight choral ensemble.

Fri, August 23, 2002

A musicological marriage
The Boston Globe

Indefatigable Julian Wachner continues to be a major presence on the New England scene, despite his move to Canada last year to teach at McGill University. 

The composer/conductor and some of his friends are hoping to create and American counterpart to the famous British festival created by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears at Aldeburgh in England.

Mon, July 1, 2002

Music for Organ and Voices
The Diapason

Composition review by James McCray

“This 18-minute, multi-movement work is an exciting setting that will require skilled performers.”

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Music for Organ and Voices
James McCray
The Diapason 93:7:1112
July 2002

Regina Coeli
Julian Wachner. SATB, orchestra (or piano), and soprano solo, E.C. Schirmer Co., 5832
No price given (D).

This 18-minute, multi-movement work is an exciting setting that will require skilled performers. There are five movements, all with a Latin text. The composer has two versions, one with large orchestra and the other for organ, two percussion, and strings, which may be more practical for church performances. The soprano solo is very taxing, requiring coloratura vocal lines that have sustained high Cs. Much of the music is fast and rhythmic; the piece opens with a long instrumental sinfonia. This work is not particularly difficult for the choir, which receives strong support from the accompaniment although there is some unaccompanied singing. The music is exciting and often very busy for the instrumentalists.

Thu, June 6, 2002

A cut above the rest
Bay Windows - Arts

To write “this is a wonderful CD” does not begin to do this recording justice. If you have attended your share of community/volunteer chorus presentations, you too may have come away with the distinct impression that such concerts are frequently more enjoyable for the singers than for those who are sometimes haplessly hoodwinked into attending. Such is not the case with Coro Allegro, Boston’s chorus for members and friends of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities…

Julian Wachner’s “Sometimes I Feel Alive,” a setting of three poems by e.e. cummings, finds the group exhibiting excellent intonation, crisp contrapuntal rhythms, and fine control of dynamics. Coro Allegro captures to perfection the delicate intimacy of the concluding “somewhere i have never traveled.”

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A Cut Above The Rest
Jason Victor Serinus, Bay Windows - Arts
Issue: 6/6/02

'somewhere i have never traveled: choral music by Boston composers,' Patricia Van Ness, Julian Wachner, Aaron Rosenthal and Daniel Pinkham, on a Coro Allegro CD.

To write "this is a wonderful CD" does not begin to do this recording justice. If you have attended your share of community/volunteer chorus presentations, you too may have come away with the distinct impression that such concerts are frequently more enjoyable for the singers than for those who are sometimes haplessly hoodwinked into attending. Such is not the case with Coro Allegro, Boston's chorus for members and friends of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities.

Especially as heard last year, recorded live during a February performance of Composer-in-Residence Patricia Van Ness' "The Voice of the Tenth Muse," Coro Allegro boasts a soprano and alto section that many professional choral directors would surrender their prized baton for. Distinguished by laudable

breath control and ideal intonation, Artistic Director David Hodgkins' 60-member gem of a chorus offers music making that would win applause on any stage.

But Coro Allegro's triumph extends far beyond its voices. In this, its second commercial CD, the group offers four recent choral works by Boston composers, two of which were commissioned by the chorus. Not content to regurgitate the typical do-re-mi mediocrity that dominates the repertoire of many community choruses, Hodgkins has chosen work that stretches the harmonic envelope. That Coro Allegro delivers stellar performances speaks volumes for the labor and dedication that have produced such rewarding music making.

Van Ness' beautiful "The Voice of the Tenth Muse" derives its title from Plato's description of the poetess Sappho. Offering six selections/ fragments, some sung in Greek, others in Diane Rayor's English translation, Van Ness' early music-inspired harmonies create a rarefied atmosphere of love and sensuality. The opening movements, sung as if suspended in air, are especially transporting. Soprano soloist Ruth Cunningham, formerly of the famed Anonymous 4 women's vocal quartet, sings exquisitely, her purity matched by Coro Allegro's radiant sopranos. Enunciation could be clearer--at times it's hard to tell what language the chorus is singing in--but the printed texts and translations fill in the gaps. Part of the performance's success is due to recording engineer Frank Cunningham's expertise in capturing the spaciousness and sonic ring of Boston's Church of the Convent.

The disc's other three selections, though captured in slightly drier sound, offer equally rewarding music. Julian Wachner's "Sometimes I Feel Alive," a setting of three poems by e.e. cummings, finds the group exhibiting excellent intonation, crisp contrapuntal rhythms, and fine control of dynamics. Coro Allegro captures to perfection the delicate intimacy of the concluding "somewhere i have never traveled."

ESPECIALLY HAUNTING

Aaron Rosenthal's "Voices of Terezin," a setting of three poems written by children interred in the Nazi's Theresienstadt "demonstration" camp for artists, won First Prize in the 1998 Greater Boston Choral Consortium Composition Competition. Texts are drawn from "I never saw another butterfly," a moving compilation of children's poems and drawings from the concentration camp. As one hears the lyrics, and realizes that less than 100 out of 15,000 children survived the camp, the poignancy of this beautiful music touches deeply. Coro Allegro proves especially haunting in the opening "To Olga."

To conclude its fifth anniversary season, the chorus commissioned the five-movement "The White Raven" from composer Daniel Pinkham and librettist Christopher Smart. Accompanied by a 19-member chamber orchestra, the work features Pinkham's chosen soprano soloist, Carole Haber, who in this 1996 live performance sounds happiest higher in her range. Unless less than ideal microphone placement is responsible for what we hear--you'd never guess that the weak-sounding orchestra is as large as it is--it's fair to say that Coro Allegro's sound has improved over the last several years. Not only do the sopranos lack the radiant purity produced by their 2001 successors on the opening live track, but the chorus lacks the oomph necessary for the rousing final "Hosannah!"

You can obtain this disc from http://www.coroallegro.com or by calling 617-499-4868.

Sat, June 1, 2002

Music for Organ and Voices
The Diapason

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, CD review by James McCray

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Music for Organ and Voices
James McCray
The Diapason 93:6:1111
June 2002

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Julian Wachner. SATB and organ, ECS Publishing, No. 5813, no price given (M-)

The first stanza is in unison with the organ doubling the melody line. The second stanza is unaccompanied four-part choir and the last stanza has the organ on three staves with a vocal descant that soars over the unison chorus singing the melody. Easy music that builds to a dramatic ending.

Sun, December 30, 2001

Wachner’s CD a heavenly success
Deseret News

Performed by the Boston Bach Ensemble, a group Wachner founded in 1995, the album shows [him] to be an admirable composer of sacred music…

This is highly enjoyable music, performed by a fine ensemble of singers and instrumentalists.  And the two organists on this CD, Michael Kleinschmidt and Jennifer Lester, are especially remarkable.

Mon, December 17, 2001

Guest conductor soars with ‘Messiah’
San Diego Union-Tribune

In performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ the vocal soloists or chorus usually attract the most attention.  Over the weekend, however, the conductor sparkled with star power. 

Julian Wachner made a splendid San Diego Symphony debut on Friday in the first of three Copley Symphony Hall presentations with the Orchestra, La Jolla Symphony Chorus and guest soloists…There was no mistaking his skill and insight during the performance of the 1741 oratorio…

Thu, December 13, 2001

‘I treat it as if it’s an opera’: ‘Messiah’ veteran has sense of purpose about its performance
San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego Symphony ‘Messiah’ preview by Valerie Scher

Fri, November 30, 2001

Nothing sacred: Boston Academy of Music’s ‘Mikado’
The Boston Phoenix

Siff’s staging was also very musical…And worthy of conductor Julian Wachner, who kept things moving along not by rushing but by varying the pace and allowing Sullivan’s enchanting tunes to take wing.

Wed, November 28, 2001

School’s out in Academy’s mocking ‘Mikado’
The Boston Globe

In the pit, conductor Julian Wachner was directing one of his last performances in Boston now that he has decamped for the frozen North (Montreal and McGill University). As always, he led with a marvelous sense of pacing and theatricality.

Mon, November 5, 2001

Providence Singers find their voice
The Providence Journal

Anyone who showed up at Veterans Memorial Auditorium Saturday who has not followed the recent fortunes of the Providence Singers must have been stunned.

Here was a group that five short years ago needed a major overhaul. But under the guidance of Julian Wachner, the group has become one of the top musical organizations in the state, right up there with the Rhode Island Philharmonic…

Neither Wachner’s nor Sharpe’s music seemed much of a stretch for the singers, who turned in solid performances. It was after intermission, though, that the group caught fire for one of the most inspired Mozart Requiems I’ve ever heard, with razor-sharp attacks, soaring phrases, and translucent textures.

Wachner made sure the strings, local players and Boston recruits were not blown away by the voices, so often-missed details shone through. There were nice interchanges, too, between the singers and trombonists, who more than earned their keep.

Wed, October 31, 2001

Wachner farewell concert strikes a chord, delivers a message
The Boston Globe

The Back Bay Chorale’s concert Sunday night was just one in a round of farewells that the prodigally gifted Julian Wachner will be making as he pulls up stakes in Boston, where he seems to have conducted virtually everything imaginable…In all of this, the 31-year-old Wachner has shown the kind of technical command, large- spiritedness, and fiery imagination that all but shout to the skies: “Major Talent!” As his base of operations in this city has been Boston University, so in Montreal it will be McGill. Julian Wachner being Julian Wachner, he is undoubtedly making waves there already.

Meanwhile, Sunday night’s concert was splendid. The Back Bay Chorale is not a professional chorus, but what a multitude of strengths this conductor drew from them. In the Mozart Requiem it was the firm, focused all-round sonority and the sharp-edged precision of attack that hit you first. But for all of Wachner’s alertness, in the choral literature, to authentic performance-practice niceties, there seems to be a fire-breathing Verdi conductor in him, too.

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MUSIC REVIEW

Wachner farewell concert strikes a chord, delivers a message
By Richard Buell, Globe Correspondent, 10/31/2001

The Back Bay Chorale's concert Sunday night was just one in a round of farewells that the prodigally gifted Julian Wachner will be making as he pulls up stakes in Boston, where he seems to have conducted virtually everything imaginable: sacred motets by 1. S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz, the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, contemporary music for large-scale symphony orchestra (some ofit composed by him) - which is only to begin the list.

In all of this, the 31-year-old Wachner has shown the kind of technical command, large- spiritedness, and fiery imagination that all but shout to the skies: "Major Talent!" As his base of operations in this city has been Boston University, so in Montreal it will be McGilL Julian Wachner being Julian Wachner, he is undoubtedly making waves there already.

Meanwhile, Sunday night's concert was splendid. The Back Bay Chorale is not a professional chorus, but what a multitude of strengths this conductor drew from them. In the Mozart Requiem it was the firm, focused all-round sonority and the sharp-edged precision of attack that hit you first. But for all of Wachner's alertness, in the choral literature, to authentic performance-practice niceties, there seems to be a fire-breathing Verdi conductor in him, too. Mozart's Requiem is, of course, liturgical music, but in the shock-cut playing off of one section against another (the "Dies irae" carried Sanders Theatre's paying customers straight off to hell and back), it was pure theater. The solo singing offered a vivid, fue-and-ice contrast of excellences. Joanna Mongiardo (soprano), Deborah Rentz-Moore (mezzo), William Hite (tenor), and Sanford Sylvan (baritone) made for a nicely blended team when that was required - no mean feat given the ripe assortment of timbres and vocal personalit ies they had to offer. This was no staid, institutional Mozart Requiem. It bore a strong personal stamp. And it had the ring of truth.

One of the satisfactions of Marjorie Merryman's paperback-sized oratorio "Jonah" lay in its stylistic to-ing and fro-ing across cultures and centuries as it set out to tell a rattling good tale. You can imagine any number of old-fashioned English choral societies taking to it; it contains some wonderfully doughty, orotund passages for the solo baritone. Sylvan did not, in fact, sport mutton-chop whiskers, but he might well have. Nonetheless his Jonah was a real person, and his plight was real, too. Merryman's adroit word-setting made this happen. It was likewise with the compere-cum-narrator-cum-provider-of-reaction role assigned to the tenor, here the excellent Rite, whose singing struck a perfect balance between ruddy vocal health and emotional vulnerability. As to the orchestration for instruments and, so to speak, for the chorus, here we were in the 19th, 20th, and 21 st centuries all at once - with bright, fiery writing for brass, a pleasantly tart harmonic vocabulary, and a choral manner that sang and talked, and had a message to deliver rather than just filling up pews and smugly moralizing at you. Needless to say, Wachner brought this one to blazing life as well.

Sun, October 28, 2001

Wachner, in Montreal, stays loyal to Providence Singers
The Providence Journal

Providence Singers profile by Channing Gray

Sat, September 1, 2001

Review: Wachner Sacred Music CD
Fanfare Magazine

[Wachner’s] experience as a conductor shows everywhere, as the music is beautifully voiced, something helped by the crystal-clear recorded sound…The solo moments in the long reflective central section of Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances, where the voice drifts in utter loneliness over a long-held organ pedal with seemingly distant commentaries by the brass quintet, are utterly haunting.. Performances and recording are splendid.

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Wachner: "All Creatures of Our God and King," "Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances," "Arise My Love," [and Others]

John Story
Fanfare - The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors 25:1
[September-October 2001] p.303-304

Julian Wachner is deeply associated with music for the church, both from a spiritual standpoint and a practical one. He is on the faculty of the Boston University School of Theology, and I gather much of his output is sacred in orientation. In addition to being a composer and academic, he is also a concert organist as well as music director of a number of organizations. Here he conducts the professional choir that he founded for period performance in a recording of his sacred music. All of the music is for choir and organ with occasional use of other instruments--brass quintet and percussion in the Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances and All Creatures of our God and King, flute in At the Lighting of the Lamps. Wachner writes within a tonal context, using the sort of sweet/sour harmony one associates with the milder forms of modernism. The choral writing is often homophonic, with the inflections of melody and harmony being used to give the line impetus and bring out the meaning of the words. Even when the vocal writing is contrapuntal, he is always at great pains to make sure the words are as clear as possible. His experience as a conductor shows everywhere, as the music is beautifully voiced, something helped by the crystal-clear recorded sound.

As to the music itself, I find it mostly very attractive but rather bland. There is a certain easiness to the music, perhaps reflective of the composer's concert experience as an organist and choral conductor, and his very fluency perhaps overly informs the writing. (I am one of the few people I know who finds Palestrina's music utterly professional and endlessly dull--give me the untidy ecstasies of the Tudor composers any day. In the present context one could substitute the names Rutter and Messiaen respectively.) Still, the music is very attractive, although I also find the comment, contained in the composer's bio, that he has been praised for his ''unabashed emotionalism and showy orchestration'' sort of telling. To my ears, Wachner is at his very best when he restricts his means, a variant of Stravinsky's freedom through constraint. The unaccompanied second of the Three Songs of Isaiah is the most compelling part of that work. The solo moments in the long reflective central section of Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances, where the voice drifts in utter loneliness over a long-held organ pedal with seemingly distant commentaries by the brass quintet, are utterly haunting. The more exuberant moments make a splendid noise, but never quite make the leap into the sort of overwhelming experience for which Wachner seems to be aiming. (For entirely the opposite point of view, see David Denton's review in the May/June issue.) Performances and recording are splendid.

Fri, July 13, 2001

Composer, conductor Wachner to exit Boston
The Boston Globe

Boston is about to lose one of its most versatile, charismatic, and talented young musicians, Julian Wachner.  Since arriving as a student at Boston University 13 years ago, Wachner has built a prominent career as a composer and conductor.  This fall Wachner, 31, becomes associate professor of music and director of choral activities at McGill University in Montreal, where he will be active in the opera program.

Mon, June 4, 2001

Second Intermezzo a pleasant afternoon interlude
The Charleston Post and Courier

Spoleto Festival Orchestra review by William Gudger

Fri, June 1, 2001

Guide to Records: Wachner, Sacred Choral Music
American Record Guide

Wachner’s classy Magnificat is animated by a fluttery organ motif that’s very engaging. His ‘Quaerite Dominum’ glows with warmth, and he puts the organ and brass to effective theatrical use in the opening Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances. The recording sounds fine and the booklet makes for nice reading, though the notes by a Boston University Professor of Theology make Wachner sound like Thomas Aquinas with a baton. Who knows? maybe he is. In any event, he is a talented musician who will, no doubt, be heard from often, so church musicians and choral aficionados may want to check him out.

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Guide to Records: Wachner: Sacred Choral Music
Boston Bach Ensemble/ Julian Wachner

Mr. Greenfield
American Record Guide 64:3 [May-June 2001] p.196

Julian Wachner is a young Boston-based composer-conductor who is very much at home in the Anglican choral tradition. Indeed, his Boston Bach Ensemble does its best here to out-Brit the Brits; transparent textures, croony timbres, and pale, vibrato-less sopranos. They're pretty good at it, too. Most of the music here is slow, introspective stuff; it can become a little wearing over a 69-minute span, but the talent level is impressive.

Wachner's classy Magnificat is animated by a fluttery organ motif that's very engaging. His 'Quaerite Dominum' glows with warmth, and he puts the organ and brass to effective theatrical use in the opening Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances. The recording sounds fine and the booklet makes for nice reading, though the notes by a Boston University Professor of Theology make Wachner sound like Thomas Aquinas with a baton. Who knows? maybe he is. In any event, he is a talented musician who will, no doubt, be heard from often, so church musicians and choral aficionados may want to check him out.

Fri, May 25, 2001

Back Bay Chorale ignites fervor of Wachner’s works
The Boston Globe

Works of Haydn and Wachner reviewed by Ellen Pfeifer

Fri, May 18, 2001

Superconductivity
The Boston Globe

Wachner Symphony No. 1 preview by Richard Dyer

Sun, May 6, 2001

Review: Wachner Sacred Music CD
Fanfare Magazine

The accompanying booklet carries a quotation from the Boston Globe that describes the compositions of Julian Wachner as ‘‘unabashed emotionalism and showy orchestration.’’ I am not quite sure which way I would take that if I were Wachner, but it certainly sums up the present disc in a nutshell. He is an extremely gifted young man, equally at home as a choral trainer, orchestral conductor, concert organist, and lecturer, Lukas Foss identifying him as ‘‘a talent that will invigorate the musical world.’’ The present disc would portray Wachner as a composer who is pinning his hope that melody will eventually triumph over atonality. The result is a group of works possessing the characteristics that have brought John Rutter’s sacred scores an international recognition and commercial success.

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Wachner: "Alleluias, Intercessions, and Remembrances";
3 Songs of Isaiah;
"At the Lighting of the Lamps"; [and Others]

Fanfare - The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors 24:5 [May-June 2001] p.239-240
David Denton

The accompanying booklet carries a quotation from the Boston Globe that describes the compositions of Julian Wachner as ''unabashed emotionalism and showy orchestration.'' I am not quite sure which way I would take that if I were Wachner, but it certainly sums up the present disc in a nutshell. He is an extremely gifted young man, equally at home as a choral trainer, orchestral conductor, concert organist, and lecturer, Lukas Foss identifying him as ''a talent that will invigorate the musical world.'' The present disc would portray Wachner as a composer who is pinning his hope that melody will eventually triumph over atonality. The result is a group of works possessing the characteristics that have brought John Rutter's sacred scores an international recognition and commercial success. The opening Alleluias, Intercessions, and Remembrances makes a striking impact, and, without being disrespectful to the 23 singers of the Boston Bach Ensemble, I would love to hear it with a choir that has the numerical strength to do the work full justice.

Though Wachner may be the first to reject the notion, he is writing music that would be ideal for the great cathedral choirs in the UK. You can just imagine the British boy sopranos hitting those high notes in the Three Songs of Isaiah, which causes some stress for the Boston sopranos. The choir, which Wachner founded in 1995, is a very well-balanced ensemble that produces a tone of considerable beauty, a feature we can enjoy in the more introspective qualities of one of his most recent scores, At the Lighting of the Lamps. The sheer sense of a peace at the conclusion is one of the most magical moments

I have experienced in a contemporary choral work. The factor throughout the disc is Wachner's belief and sincerity in his creativity. If that does include a ''showy'' quality at times, the ends justify the means, to the extent that these works should find a place in the church choral repertoire.

Michael Kleinschmidt on the Aeolian-Skinner organ in the Church of the Advent in Boston adds an atmospheric backdrop to the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, composed in 1992 for the St. Thomas Church in New York, the choir school that nurtured the musical talents of the young Wachner. The acerbic harmonies of the Nunc Dimittis did come as a surprise, and I was not quite sure what the composer was here looking to achieve. An apparently straightforward setting of All Creatures of Our God and King suddenly changes in the final verse, the full forces of the choir, organ, and instruments bringing the disc to a thrilling conclusion.

The recorded sound captures the singers rather set back in the Boston church, which gives a warming reverberation around the choral tone, and adds a quite exquisite quality to the hushed moments in the final section of At the Lighting of the Lamps. The booklet gives a full text, and I strongly recommend the disc to you.

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