“Now this is the way for an ensemble to celebrate an anniversary … It takes confidence for an ensemble to put the word ‘virtuoso’ in its name. The New York Virtuoso Singers have long earned it.” – Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times
The New York Virtuoso Singers (NYVS) celebrate their 25th anniversary season with the extraordinary 25×25: 25 new compositions by 25 contemporary composers commissioned by NYVS for this milestone. Under the direction of founder and conductor Harold Rosenbaum, the works were premiered at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City over two concerts last season. The resulting 2-CD collection from Soundbrush Records, available October 8, showcases a treasure trove of new works from the best of America’s living composers—including twelve Pulitzer Prize-winners—and an award-winning professional chorus of remarkable skill and artistry.
25×25 features an enormous breadth of style and inspiration from the composers. Conductor Harold Rosenbaum is passionate about the adventure of working with living composers, and about expanding the choral music repertoire. “I love music from all eras,” comments Rosenbaum, “but when I’m doing contemporary music, the more complex it is and the more challenging it is, the more I enjoy unravelling the mysteries.” The collection includes a cappella works, those with soloists, as well as pieces with piano accompaniment from Brent Funderburk.
Works by classic American poets are set by WILLIAM BOLCOM, with William Blake’s Why Was Cupid A Boy; GEORGE TSONTAKIS, with Edgar Allan Poe’s A Dream Within a Dream; JOSEPH SCHWANTNER, who sets Smoke from Thoreau’s Walden; and THEA MUSGRAVE’s Starlight, an excerpt from Longfellow’s Morituri Salutamus.
Sacred texts and subjects inspired STEPHEN HARTKE, whose Audistis quia dictum est (Matthew 5:38-39) highlights a controversial passage in the New Testament; RICHARD DANIELPOUR with a new Lux Aeterna; and JENNIFER HIGDON with an interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. Psalm settings include SHULAMIT RAN’s Psalm 37 (The Humble Shall Inherit the Earth) in the original Hebrew; and YEHUDI WYNER’s Psalm 69 (Save me, O God).
25×25 features a wide range of renowned poets, from Ben Jonson’s Song to Celia, set by ROGER DAVIDSON; the wry and spooky Here by first-century Greek poet Marcus Argentarius, set by MARK ADAMO; STEVEN STUCKY sets Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Say Thou Dost Love Me; CHEN YI sets Let’s Reach a New Height, a poem from the Tang Dynasty; FRED LERDAHL’s Cornstalks, for small double chorus a cappella, is a setting of the autumnal poem Zea by Richard Wilbur; JOHN CORIGLIANO gracefully interprets Upon Julia’s Clothes, a poem by 17th-century poet Robert Herrick; and John Harbison sets The Pool by contemporary poet Michael Fried.
Inspiration came to DAVID DEL TREDICI from a 1727 New England Primer, with his Alphabet II, and to DAVID FELDER with Nomina sunt consequentia rerum (Names are the consequences of things) from Dante’s In La Vita Nuova. DAVID LANG puts his own twist on an African-American spiritual with the same train, and BRUCE ADOLPHE draws a text from the writings of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio in his Obedient Choir of Emotions. JOAN TOWER’s Descending is a spare expression of loss and grief on the passing of a sister and dear friend, and AUGUSTA READ THOMAS’s Spells, by Gerard Manley Hopkins/Thomas, is dedicated to the memory of Elliott Carter. RICHARD WERNICK sets a palindromic Latin text in The Devil’s Game—mirrored by a clever musical palindrome—and AARON JAY KERNIS sets an ecstatic and mystical Kabbalistic text, Song of You, by the Hasidic leader and Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev.
A particularly poignant contribution to the collection is Memorial by ELLEN TAAFFE ZWILICH. Written to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, the work integrates the names of the victims into text from the Requiem Mass. Memorial features The Canticum Novum Youth Choir, with director Edie Rosenbaum.