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amarcord

Hear the Voice (2001)

4.7

June 19, 2002

Tuning / Blend 4.7
Energy / Intensity 3.7
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.0
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 4.0
Tracks
1 If ye love me (Thomas Tallis) 4.7
2 Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise (Francis Poulenc) 4.3
3 Herr, lehre doch mich (Rudolf Mauersberger) 4.3
4 Magnus es tu, Domine; secunda pars: Tu pauperum refugium (Josquin des Préz) 4.7
5 Psaume 121 (Darius Milhaud) 4.3
6 Ave verum corpus (William Byrd) 4.3
7 Sunt lacrimae rerum (Carl Orff) 4.3
8 O Salutaris hostia (Pierre de la Rue) 4.7
9 Ach, wie nichtig, ach, wie flüchtig (Peter Cornelius) 4.3
10 De profundis (Rudolf Mauersberger) 4.3
11 Hear the voice and prayer (Thomas Tallis) 4.3
12 Tenebrae (Marcus Ludwig) 4.7

Recorded 1998 – 1999
Total time: 58:04, 12 songs


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 2
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 If ye love me (Thomas Tallis) 4
2 Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise (Francis Poulenc) 3
3 Herr, lehre doch mich (Rudolf Mauersberger) 3
4 Magnus es tu, Domine; secunda pars: Tu pauperum refugium (Josquin des Préz) 4
5 Psaume 121 (Darius Milhaud) 3
6 Ave verum corpus (William Byrd) 3
7 Sunt lacrimae rerum (Carl Orff) 3
8 O Salutaris hostia (Pierre de la Rue) 4
9 Ach, wie nichtig, ach, wie flüchtig (Peter Cornelius) 3
10 De profundis (Rudolf Mauersberger) 3
11 Hear the voice and prayer (Thomas Tallis) 3
12 Tenebrae (Marcus Ludwig) 4

Hear the Voice is crisp, clean, and exact. Ensemble Amarcord and their fans should be very proud of this release.

This release is peppered with delicious dynamics, delicate diction, breathtaking blend, Zzzzzz ..., intelligent interpretations, Zzzzzzz ..., and ... Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

*whump*

This project is missing life in the music. I was constantly dozing off while listening to this album at home, work, and in my car. (Don't worry, no road kill was created due to the onset of drowsiness while driving.) In this album, the energy and passion behind the music has been pissed away in favor of precision vocals. Some people would argue that this is not necessarily a bad trade-off, but I feel that a more balanced approach would have made this project much more enjoyable for the listener.

As disappointed as I was with the lack of vivacity in this album, I can't let myself be completely negative about it. The singing is very good. The musician inside each member of the group shines through as they sing some very intimate musical passages.

The songs are there. Their obvious talent is there. They just need a few lessons in passion and enthusiasm to finish off an otherwise quality project.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 If ye love me (Thomas Tallis) 5
2 Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise (Francis Poulenc) 5
3 Herr, lehre doch mich (Rudolf Mauersberger) 5
4 Magnus es tu, Domine; secunda pars: Tu pauperum refugium (Josquin des Préz) 5
5 Psaume 121 (Darius Milhaud) 5
6 Ave verum corpus (William Byrd) 5
7 Sunt lacrimae rerum (Carl Orff) 5
8 O Salutaris hostia (Pierre de la Rue) 5
9 Ach, wie nichtig, ach, wie flüchtig (Peter Cornelius) 5
10 De profundis (Rudolf Mauersberger) 5
11 Hear the voice and prayer (Thomas Tallis) 5
12 Tenebrae (Marcus Ludwig) 5

The five members of Germany's Ensemble Amarcord sing like angels and look like the Backstreet Boys. Well, a little more clean cut. But they certainly bring to mind British string quartet Bond, four women with impeccable musical chops who happen to look (and sometimes dress) like Victoria's Secret models.

Speaking of musical chops, don't be fooled by Ensemble Amarcord's pretty faces. All of them trained in the prestigious St. Thomas Boys Choir, and their intonation and blend is near-perfect, although I felt their tone-quality was occasionally thicker than I would have liked.

Hear the Voice features the usual suspects of classical choral music: Poulenc, Tallis, Byrd, Orff. There's little to dislike here: almost ten pages of liner notes match the singing for insight and precision.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 If ye love me (Thomas Tallis) 5
2 Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise (Francis Poulenc) 5
3 Herr, lehre doch mich (Rudolf Mauersberger) 5
4 Magnus es tu, Domine; secunda pars: Tu pauperum refugium (Josquin des Préz) 5
5 Psaume 121 (Darius Milhaud) 5
6 Ave verum corpus (William Byrd) 5
7 Sunt lacrimae rerum (Carl Orff) 5
8 O Salutaris hostia (Pierre de la Rue) 5
9 Ach, wie nichtig, ach, wie flüchtig (Peter Cornelius) 5
10 De profundis (Rudolf Mauersberger) 5
11 Hear the voice and prayer (Thomas Tallis) 5
12 Tenebrae (Marcus Ludwig) 5

Mrs. Haas, my mother's late piano teacher, had such perfect pitch that the rest of the music world had a little trouble keeping up with her. Back in the fifties, she would call up WFMT, the classical station in Chicago, to inform them that their turntable was running slow; she (unlike the DJs) could tell that the pitches were ever so slightly flat. They would check, and sure enough, the gears would be ever so slightly out of whack, every time.

Ensemble Amarcord would meet even Mrs. Haas' exacting standards. The five alumni of Leipzig's St. Thomas Boys Choir (as in, the one Bach used to direct) sing together about as well as anybody I've ever heard. On Hear the Voice, their third CD, they illuminate a brilliantly balanced program of sacred works from the last five centuries.

Hear the Voice made me question every tuning 5 I've given in my RARB career. I'm a giant choir dork, I know, but I had to hit repeat just to savor the final sibilants on track 15. I know they're speaking their own language, but German is just plain hard to sing, period. How do they get every "ch" exactly the same length?

There's not a track on this CD that isn't world-class. Several listens resulted in exactly two negative notes. I thought the first tenor sounded a hair loud and bright on the high held fortes of the Orff piece, overbalancing the basses. That's tenors for you. I also thought that the singers' German accents were just detectable on certain English words in the titular Tallis piece. Horrors. Further, while the liner notes are in both German and English, the texts themselves are translated only into German, so those of you who are lyrics buffs better get out your Latin dictionaries. (On the other hand, the notes also include a couple of charming anecdotes from the history of my college choir program, so I'm inclined to be forgiving.)

If you're looking for classical a cappella, it just doesn't get much better than this.


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Ordering Information

Available from Towerhill Recordings.

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