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Friday, September 14, 2018

Gordon Getty, Beauty Come Dancing, Netherlands Radio Choir and Radio Philharmonic Orch., James Gaffigan

The choral music of Gordon Getty, American composer, is a thing of  nearly implacable singularity. You hear this plainly and happily in a recent release of selected choral works, Beauty Come Dancing (Pentatone 5186 621). James Gaffigan conducts the Netherlands Radio Choir and Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in crisply emotive readings of eleven compositions. As the program unfurls in time I find that the intersection of performers and composer turns out to be quite a worthy thing.

The first thing you note is that Getty has a knack, an excellent sense of matching affinities of text to choral setting. The works are all  recent, having been written between 2009 and 2015. Some are completely new settings, other have been adapted from their original setting for voice solo. Some of the poetic texts are by the composer, others are by a diverse and rich stock of poets, Keats, Byron, Sara Teasdale, John Masefield, etc.

As for the music, it is tonal and firmly in the choral tradition of earlier times as the composer seeks to match the spirit of the words to a corresponding sympathetic musical vision that includes a period element. Like the English Vaughan Williams, an American parallel if you will, there is an eloquence and elegance that can be sometimes folksy but then always appears to us in down-to-earth garb.

One listens and recognizes Getty's true talent. The choral music comes very much alive and it all seems tailor made for the Netherlands Radio Choir. The orchestral parts blossom forth and add significant color and depth to the choral center and here too the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic are in their element.

This music might well have been written in, say, 1910 or so. I mean to say that it is not at all Modern with a capital /M/! Yet it is nearly timeless and carves out a space where the words of the poetry amplify the music and vice-versa. This may not be for someone who wants to dwell only at the cutting edge of Modernity, yet it has such musical torque that we forget about where we are and simply thrive happily inside it all. I do recommend this for choral lovers. It is just what you need today, maybe.

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