The Crossing & Donald Nally – Carthage (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 53:36 minutes | 912 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Navona
The latest installment in a multi-album series with Navona Records, CARTHAGE offers six striking pieces by composer James Primosch that confront the most elemental questions of Western philosophy. Internationally recognized and prolific, Primosch is the 2020 winner of The Virgil Thomson Award for Vocal Music from The American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The Crossing has kept up a vigorous recording schedule featuring distinctive American choral music not found in general circulation. This album appeared in May of 2020, at the height of the coronavirus epidemic; it is to be hoped that listeners can get their hands on physical copies, for online streams do not do justice to the fine acoustic of the Massachusetts church where the group makes its recordings. Those new to The Crossing might do well to pick this release for their first one. It is entirely devoted to a cappella choral music of James Primosch, who has forged a one-of-a-kind choral idiom. The texts mix sacred and secular elements, with the centerpiece, the Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus, combining the Catholic mass text with poems by Denise Levertov. Other contemporary writers represented include Marilynne Robinson (whose prose from the novel Housekeeping provides the metaphorical view of ancient Carthage that gives the album its title) and Wendell Berry. What is most impressive is that Primosch devises a flexible musical language that matches the wide variety of textual ideas. His music, in the main, is diatonic but not really tonal. Parts of the mass offer open intervals, reminiscent of medieval organum, that complement the troping structure inherent in the exchange between the Levertov poems and the mass text. Elsewhere, Primosch employs lush, close harmonies as a means of musical intensification, for instance, in the utterly original treatment of the Incarnation and Crucifixion in the mass. He may add a descant requiring superb control from The Crossing’s sopranos, who excel. Yet again, in some of the shorter pieces, Primosch offers a new intervallic structure with each phrase, in a way reflecting the sense of the text. There’s a lot to absorb here, and the music rewards and requires multiple hearings. The performances by The Crossing, always solid, are pitch-perfect; the soloists are beautiful but do not seem to step out of the world created by the choir. This is a major American choral release.
James Primosch (b. 1956):
Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus:
3 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: I. Kyrie
4 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: II. Gloria
5 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: III. Credo
6 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: IV. Sanctus
7 Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus: V. Agnus Dei
8 Spiralling Ecstatically
9 Two Arms of the Harbor
10 One with the Darkness, One with the Light