Press

Sat, March 1, 2003

Julian Wachner Composer-conductor
La Scena Musicale

“Being a conductor is the hardest thing in the world. One has to combine the right gesture, a wealth of knowledge, the ability to inspire people and the vision to put together projects or seasons. The act of composition is a solitary activity; it is such a different mindset,” said Wachner, who prides himself as very much a composer’s advocate. “Gunther Schuller’s book The Complete Conductor blew the whistle on the major conductors and how they were distorting the masterpieces. As a composer, I am able to anticipate the direction another composer is taking, and it helps me better understand the work as a conductor.”

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Julian Wachner Composer-conductor
Wah-Keung Chang
La Scena Musicale, March 2003

Composers who are successful conductors are not that common. Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein are probably the best examples. With a stirring performance of the Monteverdi Vespers in February, McGill's Julian Wachner is making a case for this rare double career.

Wachner, who has considered himself a composer since writing a Te Deum at age 6, has been conducting for about 15, years after receiving much encouragement. Last year the 33-year old maestro arrived from years of study in Boston and took over as head of McGill's choral department. He had already amassed a prolific oeuvre of 50 compositions --soon to be published by Schirmer--many studio recordings, and excellent reviews as a conductor.

"Being a conductor is the hardest thing in the world. One has to combine the right gesture, a wealth of knowledge, the ability to inspire people and the vision to put together projects or seasons. The act of composition is a solitary activity; it is such a different mindset," said Wachner, who prides himself as very much a composer's advocate. "Gunther Schuller's book The Complete Conductor blew the whistle on the major conductors and how they were distorting the masterpieces. As a composer, I am able to anticipate the direction another composer is taking, and it helps me better understand the work as a conductor."

Wachner's breakthrough as a conductor came two years ago when he met Emmanuel Villaumme at the Spoleto Festival. "His approach was just so wonderfully alive, and he gave me a new prioritizing of why we are making music. I think my generation has a different view on performance because of recordings. Particularly in early music which are recorded closely and perfectly, we need to rediscover what it is like to make music with other human beings. There has been a big change for me in how I approach rehearsals and the act of performing in concerts.

"So much of what I'm doing is highly architectural, much like taking a building apart and rebuilding it. How the different players work together. Why the cello references the horn line and affects how the altos sing. I try to integrate scholarship with a real expressive intuitive manner of music-making."

Wachner's strength lies outside the 19th century, in composers such as Machaut, Dufay, Ockeghem, renaissance and baroque polyphony and the 20th century. "I view the 19th century through the lens of the 17th and 18th centuries. I'm aware that Brahms is a Schütz fanatic. Then the idea of tactus means something; all of his links to polyphony that labeled him a stodgy classicist by the Wagnerites. There is an element of creating something really new by going back to the old, by putting a 19th century harmonic vocabulary on it. Many of the harmonies that are so radical are really 15th and 16th century style and harmonies. I try to look at a bigger rhythmic sense than taking more rubato; a more vital sense of rhythm and pulse is very important in the 19th century."

How does conducting affect his composition? "My music became much more accessible. I was writing some really wild stuff, and now I like to have my music have an audience, with a balance between sincerity and accessibility. It's post-Bernstein, it's a rich sort of French harmonic vocabulary with a New York City rhythmic energy to it, with melodies, tunes, lots of lydian and octotonic scales."

Wachner recently took up the prestigious post of musical director of the Church of St. Andrew's and St. Paul's. "I grew up with liturgical music, and I don't think I can do without it. I find that I need to be very busy in order for me to be inspired creatively in composition."

Mon, February 17, 2003

Old and new harmonize in Vespers
Montreal Gazette

This stylistic compendium of 1610, based on Gregorian chant yet full of innovative choral and instrumental effects, is a kind of gateway to classical music as it is broadly understood. Whether it should be viewed as an ancient curiosity or heard as something immediate is normally a dilemma for the modern listener. It can be both, as it was in this remarkably vivid, yet impeccably of-the-period performance under the new McGill choral honcho, Julian Wachner…The massed singers were splendid, whether in busy counterpoint or in radiant passages of sustained harmony…
A master of balancing diverse elements, Wachner deserved even more credit for the rhythmic exactitude of his conducting.

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Old and new harmonize in Vespers
Wachner leads dazzling performance - Monteverdi work could be heard as both ancient curiosity and something immediate

Arthur Kaptainis
The Montreal Gazette

February 17, 2003

The Faculty of Music at McGill University has made an interesting pest of itself by mounting symphonic, choral and operatic events that are too grand in scale and professional calibre for an overworked critic to ignore. Now the early-music people have got into the act. On Saturday, three McGill divisions - the Baroque Orchestra, Cappella Antica and Chamber Singers rented no less an edifice than St. Patrick's Basilica to present Monteverdi's Vespers.

This stylistic compendium of 1610, based on Gregorian chant yet full of innovative choral and instrumental effects, is a kind of gateway to classical music as it is broadly understood. Whether it should be viewed as an ancient curiosity or heard as something immediate is normally a dilemma for the modern listener. It can be both, as it was in this remarkably vivid, yet impeccably of-the-period performance under the new McGill choral honcho, Julian Wachner.

The 48 singers included 17 soloists, who moved from the rear to the front of the chancel - or, for echo effects, to the balcony - according to the individual needs of each of the 13 movements. These ranged from the poised and peaceful Audi Coelum to the glorious concluding Magnificat, a multi-sectional work that is major in its own right.

It was hard to select highlights from the dazzling array of sonorities. Certainly the silky tone of the plainchant (whether sung within or between movements) was a central element. The tenors were matched by the altos in this duty in the Et exultavit section of the last movement. The massed singers were splendid, whether in busy counterpoint or in radiant passages of sustained harmony.

Instrumentalists also were fine, notably in the Sonata Soprano Sancta Maria, an energetic concerto grosso with token choral lines. Far from making excuses for the period instruments, the listener could only admire the perfection of the sonority produced by the sackbuts and cornetts (the latter occasionally taxed by the high tessitura) and, in particular, the richness of the solo violins.

St. Patrick's was the right place to create a resonant but essentially lucid sound. A master of balancing diverse elements, Wachner deserved even more credit for the rhythmic exactitude of his conducting.

Monteverdi’s passages of static harmony can sound strange to the contemporary listener (or at least to non-fans of Philip Glass). Pace and punctuation were critical to maintaining interest.

It goes without saying that the space was visually uplifting – an aid to spiritual comprehension, even it seemed to dwarf the performers at first. The Vespers remain an intriguing mix of old, new, sacred and secular impulses. Perhaps this is why the work is relevant to a society that finds itself in a similar situation.

Sat, February 15, 2003

Mastering Monteverdi
Montreal Gazette

Wachner is currently in his second year as head of the choral program at McGill, where he follows the retired Iwan Edwards. His wife is a dean at Boston University and his cell phone still has a Boston exchange. This is not promising, but Wachner appears to be in Montreal for the long haul. He was recently named music director of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, where he will be undertaking not only Sunday-morning duties but special projects like Bach’s St. John Passion. He seems to be smitten by the city. It is, for one thing, a welcome change.

“In Boston, everybody knew who I was, the young kid,” he explained. “It was a little bit like (conductor) Yannick (Nezet-Seguin) here, or (conductor) Jacques Lacombe. I felt that to grow as a musician I really had to leave that comfortable market. “There is really a different aesthetic here. The approach is much more emotional than cerebral - Boston being such a heavy university town, it’s so German in its aesthetics and its approach to music-making. “I don’t want to sound cliché, but the French influence in Montreal really puts a different spin on it. I think there’s an immediate feeling vs. a ‘thinking’ approach. “This was reflected in some of the comments I heard in the first months I was working at McGill: ‘When are we going to get to the music? This is so analytical, so intellectual.”

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Mastering Monteverdi
Vespers to feature original instrumentation - Julian Wachner will lead McGill ensemble
ina work so demanding that professionals seldom perform it
Arthur Kaptainis
Montreal Gazette, 15 February, 2003

"Frankly; I don't know of any other North American university where you could put on a piece like this, with its original instrumentation," Julian Wachner said a few minutes before a rehearsal. "It's pretty remarkable." Yes, Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers are seldom enough performed by professional ensembles, so great are its demands. But this is McGill, where the massive symphonies of Mahler have been embraced as standard repertoire. Why not get into the Big M who was changing the face of Western music 300 years earlier?

The performance, involving the combined forces of the McGill Baroque Orchestra (under Hank Knox), the Cappella Antica (under Valerie Kinslow) and the McGill Chorus (Wachner), was originally planned for midsize Pollack Hall. John Grew, the organist who established the baroque program at McGill 25 years ago, had other ideas.

"That is absolutely the wrong space for this," were Grew's words as Wachner reproduced them, with a convincing Grew accent. The concert, accordingly; will unfold tonight at 8 in the more spacious and spiritual environment of St. Patrick's Basilica. Wachner will be at the helm.

While the 12 movements of Vespers are in essence choral- and can be performed in a "little" version with only an organ accompaniment -they are interesting to the unchurched public for their spectacular and varied use of instruments. Monteverdi put a lot of heart into his accompaniments. His 1607 opera Orfeo can reasonably be called the first ever piece of music to be orchestrated in the modern sense of the term. That makes his Vespers, published in 1610, the second. The McGill performance will comprise 24 instrumentalists, including players of that popular ancestor of the trombone, the sackbut.

There is variety in Monteverdi's choral writing as well. The first motet, Nigra Sum from the Song of Songs, is for tenor soloist. This is followed by a psalm, Laudate Pueri, for double choir. A duo and trio are intermingled with movements for multiple voices with echo effects. Some of these will require singers to be stationed in the balconies. "This was an audition piece, so he was showing off all the ways he could compose," Wachner said of Monteverdi, who probably wanted to escape his low-paying job in Mantua for something more princely in Rome (he settled for St. Mark's in Venice).

It is probable that the soprano and alto parts were sung by males in Monteverdi's time. True to contemporary trends, the McGill chorus of 45 includes some high-flying males. Wachner has taken care to mix voices carefully. Men will apply falsetto selectively and women will avoid the operatic sound known as chest voice. But do not be fooled by the liturgical title or Monteverdi's use of Gregorian tunes. The Vespers are not sombre. "It is an encyclopaedia of the possibilities of form, of texture, of style," Wachner said of the work, which, with Gregorian chants sung between movements to cleanse the palate, will last about 100 minutes. "It would be like going to a symphony program and hearing not only a sonata-allegro movement and a scherzo but a string quartet and a piece for oboe and piano -all the different textures that are possible in traditional classical music."

Born in Hollywood, Calif., Wachner, 33, was raised musically as an Anglican choir boy at St. Thomas's Church in New York City. More recently, he worked and taught in that early-music hotbed, Boston. More than 40 of his sacred compositions have been published by the reputable Schirmer firm.

Wachner is currently in his second year as head of the choral program at McGill, where he follows the retired Iwan Edwards. His wife is a dean at Boston University and his cell phone still has a Boston exchange. This is not promising, but Wachner appears to be in Montreal for the long haul. He was recently named music director of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, where he will be undertaking not only Sunday-morning duties but special projects like Bach's St. John Passion. He seems to be smitten by the city. It is, for one thing, a welcome change.

"In Boston, everybody knew who I was, the young kid," he explained. "It was a little bit like (conductor) Yannick (Nezet-Seguin) here, or (conductor) Jacques Lacombe. I felt that to grow as a musician I really had to leave that comfortable market. "There is really a different aesthetic here. The approach is much more emotional than cerebral - Boston being such a heavy university town, it's so German in its aesthetics and its approach to music-making. "I don't want to sound cliché, but the French influence in Montreal really puts a different spin on it. I think there's an immediate feeling vs. a 'thinking' approach. "This was reflected in some of the comments I heard in the first months I was working at McGill: 'When are we going to get to the music? This is so analytical, so intellectual."

Wed, January 1, 2003

Guide to Records: Julian Wachner
American Record Guide

And so it goes: deft touches of inspiration - notably in the nicely crafted Enchantment for flute, bassoon and piano…Undoubtedly gifted, Wachner is still finding his own voice…At any rate there is enough of value here to keep me interested.

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Guide to Records: Julian Wachner
Lehman
American Record Guide
January 2003

Julian Wachner; Quartet #1; Cycles; Landscapes; Enchantment; Dances and Apparitions; Cymbale
Boston Sinfonietta, others
Arsis 129 - 78 minutes

An earlier Arsis disc of Julian Wachner's choral music earned Philip Greenfield's appreciation for its idiomatic and effective vocal writing. Here now are six well-enough-performed-and-recorded instrumental chamber pieces, all from the 1990s, by this California-born (1969) composer who currently teaches and conducts at Montreal's McGill University.

Wachner's First Quartet is in three movements. I is a slow, tonal chorale overlaid by elaborate ornaments and - most annoying - long smears of glissando. II is a fast dance (old-fashioned enough to have been written by Dvorak) that fights off an attack of frantic Bartokian screeching. III begins with a

late-romantic adagio prologue, then moves into a brisk fugue that degenerates into a manic, cacophonous climax before subsiding into a slow, tonal chorale much like the one in the first movement. The subtext of all this is the typical post-modern struggle or conflation of tonality versus anti-tonality, and (though this may be the point) it leaves me impatient and frustrated. Why can't Wachner just choose a language and stick with it?

Cycles, for clarinet and piano, is more internally consistent and more satisfying; its free chromaticism encompasses sinuous melodic lines, post-impressionistic harmonies, and (in the exciting finale) driving asymmetrical ostinato rhythms. Landscapes, for flute, saxophone, cello, and piano (a wonderful grouping), is in five movements and again reveals Wachner's strengths and weaknesses. I presents long-lined cello and saxophone coloraturas over rippling marimba figures; it's quite lovely, except for the ungainly slow cello glissando. Why on earth does Wachner resort to this trite, ugly, mood-spoiling device? II and IV are solo interludes for saxophone and cello. Best of all if III, a limpid and delicately poetic trio for flute, marimba, and saxophone. But V ruins the whole effect of the piece by stating directly what's been hinted at all along (as for instance in the last notes of I): that the piece is a fantasy on Debussy's Des Pas sur la Neige (Footprints in the snow), one of his piano preludes - and one of the most haunting and beautiful works in the entire canon of Western music. Alas, blatantly rearranging this unfathomable masterpiece, as Wachner does in the last movement of Landscapes, not only leaves us with an impoverished and cheapened version of the original, but also undermines the subtlety and implication of Wachner's earlier hints of Debussy's prelude.

And so it goes: deft touches of inspiration - notably in the nicely crafted Enchantment for flute, bassoon and piano - alongside clumsy mishandlings and crudities. Undoubtedly gifted, Wachner is still finding his own voice, still in need of self-criticism. Since that puts him in company with most composers these days, I guess we should just keep listening and wish him the best. At any rate there is enough of value here to keep me interested.

Fri, November 29, 2002

Review: Wachner, Clarinet Concerto
The Boston Globe

Wachner led a fiery performance of Beethoven’s ‘‘Egmont’’ Overture and a compelling account of Brahms’s Third Symphony, a piece many conductors avoid because it is difficult - and because it ends quietly. Wachner’s handling of the limpid and sighing third movement was masterly.

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Richard Dyer
The Boston Globe
November 29, 2002

BRAHMS – Symphony No. 3
BEETHOVEN – Egmond Overture
RAVEL – Don Quichotte a Dulcinee
WACHNER – Clarinet Concerto

Wachner led a fiery performance of Beethoven's ''Egmont'' Overture and a compelling account of Brahms's Third Symphony, a piece many conductors avoid because it is difficult - and because it ends quietly. Wachner's handling of the limpid and sighing third movement was masterly. There were two soloists, both Boston Conservatory faculty members: baritone Sanford Sylvan and BSO clarinetist Scott Andrews. Sylvan sang Ravel's cycle ''Don Quichotte a Dulcinee,'' bringing a complex characterization to each contrasting song - lilting and seductive; prayerful and dignified; unbuttoned and, well, drunk. Sylvan's French was superb, his coloratura easy and ebullient. Andrews offered Wachner's own Clarinet Concerto, which another artist premiered a couple of weeks ago with the Quincy Symphony. The first movement begins with a pulse that generates cloudlike bursts of color and begins to push them around, like parts of a mobile; the other two movements are jazzy, energetic, and ingenious. Andrews offered big-time chops and wonderful subtlety of tonal coloration. The orchestra was unrecognizable as the willing but often challenged band of the past. The committed performances Sunday night were a tribute to Wachner - but also to the groundwork laid by his two predecessors this season, and to the recruiting skills of [Richard] Ortner.

Fri, November 1, 2002

CD Review: The Company of Heaven
American Record Guide

article by Charles H. Parsons

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Britten: "The Company of Heaven; Te Deum in C; Prelude & Fugue on a Theme of Vittoria" Marsh Chapel Choir, Back Bay Chorale & Orchestra/ Julian Wachner, org
Arsis 134--60 minutes
Charles H. Parsons
American Record Guide 65:6 [November-December 2002] p.86-87

Early in Britten's career he composed incidental music for plays. By 1935 he had entered into a contract with the British General Post Office to compose background music for the department's documentary films. Two years later he began a similar arrangement with BBC Radio. Two of his early part-songs had already been performed by the BBC Singers. In 1936 and 1937 the BBC broadcast a series of programs celebrating the major feast days of the Christian church: All Saints's Day, Christmas, Holy Week, etc. The programs were produced by Robin Whitworth, and the literary texts were selected by Ellis Roberts, who also devised the structure of each program. Harvey was engaged to select bits of already composed religious music to fit around the spoken selections. In 1937 one of the programs was to celebrate Michaelmas, the Feast of St Michael and All Angels (September 29). For this occasion the three men, citing a lack of music expressly for Michaelmas, chose to commission Britten to compose music for the broadcast. This was actually Britten's second BBC commission.

The texts chosen by Roberts are hymn verses, biblical passages, and a selection of brief poetic excerpts by Theodosius, Joseph the Hymnographer, William Blake, John Milton, Thomas Haywood, Christina Rossetti, John Bunyan, and a few probably written by Roberts himself. The two narrators generally speak their lines unaccompanied to introduce each musical selection, but on several occasions are require to speak over the music. The piece has three sections, all dealing with angels. Part 1 begins with an orchestral depiction of chaos, leading to passages speaking of the angels before creation. Part 2 deals with angels in Scripture and Part 3 with angels ''in common life and at our death''. There are 11 musical numbers, ranging from two to six minutes in length. As usual with the BBC, funds were not generous for the hiring of musicians, so Britten created a lot for small musical forces. Company is scored for soprano and tenor soloists, mixed chorus, and strings, with occasional passages for organ and timpani. A glorious setting of the hymn 'Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones' concludes the work.

Company has fared well in recordings. Philip Brunelle and the London Philharmonic Choir and English Chamber Orchestra is an excellent performance recorded in warm but slightly tubby sound (Virgin 91107, March/April 1991). Better still is a 1999 performance on Silva (July/Aug 2000) by the Crouch End Festival Chorus and National Sinfonia conducted by David Temple. The Crouch End folk are not as smoothly blended as their London colleagues, but there is a simple majesty and a greater enthusiasm. Crouch End's soloists are not as good as their London colleagues, but

Crouch End has the better, more imaginative speakers. (Will Todd's moving cantata The Burning Road is also part of the Silva recording, a two-disc set.)

With such a hard act to follow the Boston folk on Arsis seem a bit pale. They are quite solid, but more bland, less exciting, with a certain caution that holds them back. The two speakers are a strange mixture of American (Bostonian?) and English accents and interpretations, rarely as imaginative as the Crouch End speakers.

The Te Deum in C and Vittoria Prelude and Fugue also suffer by comparison. These are not poor performances (actually they are quite good), just not as impressive as the competition.

Texts are included.

Wed, September 4, 2002

McGill Orchestra returns to Mahler
Montreal Gazette

Review by Arthur Kaptainis

Sat, August 31, 2002

Cast sparkles in ‘Albert Herring’
The Boston Globe

Red House Opera Group review by Richard Dyer

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.

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