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Track(s) taken from CDA67929


July 1940; 4vv; dedicated to the Berkshire Music Center, Serge Koussevitsky, Director; first performed under G Wallace Woodworth at the opening of the Berkshire Music Center on 8 July 1940
author of text

Polyphony, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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Recording details: July 2013
All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: July 2015
Total duration: 6 minutes 12 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Schola Cantorum of Oxford, James Burton (conductor)


‘It was put together from recycled material—and it shows—but it does offer an insight into unfamiliar Bernstein with echoes of before and after … there are some attractive solos, beautifully sung by countertenor David Allsopp’ (Gramophone)

‘It's often the familiar, hackneyed pieces which most fully reveal the character of an ensemble or performer, the mirror in which their interpretive mettle is most fully reflected. In that respect I've no hesitation in saying this is the finest performance of Barber's Agnus Dei I've heard by any choir, live or on record … a wonderful recital, not to be missed’ (BBC Music Magazine)» More

‘Stephen Layton’s Polyphony are an always impressive choir of startling purity and clarity. This collection of 20th-century US material encompasses familiar pieces’ (The Guardian)» More

‘The peerless choir offer meticulously blended and shaped performances of 20th-century a cappella American choral works’ (The Sunday Times)» More

‘To mark Independence Day here is a disc that makes the mid-20th century in the US seem a pinnacle of choral music … the brilliant Polyphony and its conductor, Stephen Layton, can do no wrong’ (Financial Times)» More

‘Polyphony is a fabulous group, and Stephen Layton has done wonders with them over the years. It’s excursion into the realm of Americana shows a depth of understanding and complete mastery of the idiom that differs in many ways from the modern choral compositions of the British school … a glowing recording done at All Hallows, Gospel Oak in London that resonates with depth and splendor. Definitely a keeper’ (Audiophile Audition, USA)» More

‘The music on this programme is consistently interesting and everything is performed with the consummate skill that one has come to associate with Stephen Layton and Polyphony. The sessions were spread over quite a period of time but the recorded sound seems pretty consistent to me: the team of producer Adrian Peacock and engineer David Hinitt have produced very pleasing sound. Meurig Bowen's notes are excellent’ (MusicWeb International)» More

‘Polyphony and Stephen Layton present highlights from the choral repertoire by American giants Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson. Captivating music’ (The Northern Echo)

‘If ever anyone was under the misapprehension that American choral music begins and ends with the Agnus Dei, this disc is the perfect riposte. A delightful selection, beautifully performed’ (Presto Classical)» More

«Les Four Motets de Copland sont la grande découverte d’un CD remarquable et précieux pour les amateurs, capté dans une vaste acoustique d’église» (Le Devoir)» More
Thompson’s Alleluia was written at the request of Serge Koussevitsky and premiered at the opening of the Berkshire Music Center on 8 July 1940, arriving in the conductor’s hands only forty-five minutes prior to the performance. The conductor, G Wallace Woodworth, was heard to say upon receiving the score, ‘At least we do not have to worry about the text!’. The lento marking underscores the thoughtful and more resolute quality of the work; this is not an overtly joyful alleluia but rather one more understated given the darker reality of World War II at the time, especially the recent fall of France to the Nazis.

One clearly hears in this score Thompson’s expert writing for voices, his fondness for and deft use of sequences, suspensions and counterpoint combined with his ability to control the overall pacing and structural scheme of the composition. The Alleluia is tightly constructed and moves very carefully and strategically—through the use of dynamics, articulation, expanded range, harmonic rhythm and accelerating tempo—to the very high point of intensity near the end of the work, before receding from its gorgeous wave of choral sound to return once again to its introspective beginning. The Alleluia has become a beloved and time-honored contribution to the choral repertoire.

from notes by Morten Lauridsen © 2008

Other albums featuring this work

HYP41Super-budget price sampler
Thompson: The Peaceable Kingdom & other choral works
CDA67679Archive Service
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