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Trinity Wall Street releases two premiere recordings this summer

Summer brings two major releases from Trinity Wall Street, both premiere recordings made under the leadership of its Director of Music and the Arts, Julian Wachner. The first is Julian Wachner: Symphony No. 1/Works for Orchestra and Voices, a three-CD set of the composer-conductor’s own works for orchestra and voices, recorded in downtown Manhattan’s Trinity Church with NOVUS NY – Trinity’s resident new-music orchestra – and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, with which Wachner recently scored a Grammy nomination for Handel’s Israel in Egypt. The second new release, Ralf Yusuf Gawlick: Missa gentis humanae, is a multilingual “Mass for the Human Race,” which augments the traditional Latin liturgy with passages about love drawn from Borges, Virgil, Brecht, Zbigniew Herbert, Dostoevsky, Plautus, Walter Scott, and the Gospel According to St. John, in a polyphonic a cappella setting for eight singers, all handpicked from the Choir of Trinity Wall Street. Both titles will be released August 12 on the Musica Omnia label and made available for digital downloading by Naxos International, which will also handle international distribution. Earlier this year, The New Yorker labeled Trinity Wall Street “A Mini-Lincoln Center for Downtown Manhattan,” and as the New York Times observes, Wachner “has taken the church’s program to new heights,” rendering music at Trinity “one of the city’s treasures, … indispensable and unmissable.”
Julian Wachner: Symphony No. 1/Works for Orchestra and Voices (3-CD set)

Wachner has shown the kind of technical command, large-spiritedness, and fiery imagination that all but shout to the skies: ‘Major Talent!’” declares the Boston Globe, while the Washington Post hails his compositional work as “a compendium of surprises.” Trinity’s Director of Music and the Arts characterizes his own musical language as an “eclectic understanding of post-Bernstein America, which is the logical musical vocabulary of a Greek-Mexican-Hungarian-German, half Jew, half Catholic, born-in-Hollywood, grew-up-in-New York City, Anglican boy chorister, formally trained in Boston, protégé of Lukas Foss, 40-something composer.”

Wachner’s sixth commercial recording featuring his music is a three CD set covering a variety of orchestral, vocal and instrumental textures.  The first disc pairs two substantial concert works. Of Symphony No. 1: Incantations and Lamentations (2001), Wachner notes: “There’s a lot of post-Bernsteinian Lukas Foss- and Aaron Copland-like energy to it. The opening is very virtuosic, almost like a concerto for orchestra, followed by soft choral fragments that are dark, shrouded, and tackle challenging texts. It’s a pretty intense piece.” At its world premiere, the Boston Globe described the work as “Belshazzar’s Feast squaring off against Symphony of Psalms, … a veritable bonanza of orchestral, dramatic, [and] choral invention, little of it predictable,” and found that, “as conductor, Wachner drew a loving, effective, all-out performance.” The recording’s first volume partners his symphony with another large-scale work, the “secular ghost-story” oratorio, Come, My Dark-Eyed One (2008), which is set to poetry by E.E. Cummings, John Clare, Emily Dickinson, Alfred Tennyson, Sarah Teasdale, and legendary 15th-century Turkish poet Ali-Shir Nava’i. Upon its premiere at Harvard University, the Boston Musical Intelligencer, comparing it to Brahms’ German Requiem, imagined Wachner’s secular oratorio to be poised to become “another acknowledged masterwork.” Commenting on a recent performance of the work, the DC Performing Arts Examiner pronounced the oratorio “a magnificent musical portrait of the various dimensions between two lovers.”

The second disc juxtaposes two of Wachner’s key early works, Psalm Cycle I (1989) and his breakthrough work for chorus and orchestra, Canticles (1990/94), which was written in response to the first Gulf War, with some of his lighter and more accessible fare, including the theatrically-charged version for full orchestra of Regina Coeli (2001). Describing a performance earlier this year, Feast of Music called this “a Bernstein-flavored cantata filled with bubbling textures and infectious melodies,” in which, as on the recording, the live performance featured Canadian soprano Jessica Muirhead, “who lent a pure, clean tone to the often-tricky vocals.”

The collection’s final disc showcases examples of Wachner’s sacred music for brass, percussion, and choir, from the “utterly haunting” (Fanfare) Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances (1995) to the Messiaen-esque sound world of Blue Green Red (2014), the latest addition to his oeuvre, commissioned for trumpet virtuoso Stephen Burns. After its international premiere, Iceland’s Fréttabladid found the work to be “endowed with inner harmony and always true to itself,” and marveled: “Just like [Miles] Davis, Burns produced magical sounds/colors with his trumpet: everything from subtle hums to colossal sounds.”

For Wachner, Trinity’s monumental recording project was an especially personal one, in part because he undertook so much of the editing and production process himself. He explains: “I’ve been involved every single inch of the way, doing all of the listening and choosing all of the takes. I think we had 985 takes in all! It’s the first time I’ve ever been involved like this, from the producer’s side.”

The collection also marks the first time Wachner has recorded his own music with NOVUS NY and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street. With both Trinity ensembles, he shares the close rapport born of intensive long-term collaboration. “We have a lot of mileage together,” he notes, “so we all know how we all work.” Indeed, in live performance, the choir’s way with Wachner’s music has already drawn praise, the New York Times noting of its Carnegie Hall performance of his Rilke Songs: “In music that allowed no margin for error with regard to intonation and rhythm, [the choir’s] work was airtight … The chorus handled the silken complexities of Mr. Wachner’s close harmonies gracefully.”

Full details of Symphony No. 1/Works for Orchestra and Voices are provided below.

Ralf Yusuf Gawlick: Missa gentis humanae (CD)

At first glance, Wachner’s work might seem far removed from the Missa gentis humanae, or “Mass for the Human Race” (2010), by Ralf Yusuf Gawlick, the German-born composer of Kurdish descent whose music impressed Fanfare magazine as “immensely rewarding”; where Wachner’s Symphony draws on large-scale forces, Gawlick’s Mass is scored for just eight unaccompanied singers. Yet their differences are less significant than the musical values they have in common. As Gawlick explains, “In [Wachner], I’ve found a fellow composer and friend to whom such things as craft and tradition truly matter.”

It was his own decades-long immersion in the sacred polyphonic choral tradition, and the urge to contribute to it himself, that first inspired Gawlick’s innovative Missa gentis humanae. “I wanted to write a cappella polyphonic music, and be part of that great tradition,” he says. “In my work you’ll hear echoes of Machaut, Vittoria, Palestrina, and Byrd – but also of modern composers like Janácek.” Nonetheless, his starting point was textual, rooted in the decision to complement the traditional Latin Mass with texts drawn from a broad spectrum of writers representing all the main branches of the Indo-European linguistic family, yet all linked by a common theme. Each excerpt, whether from Borges, Virgil, Brecht, Zbigniew Herbert, Dostoevsky, Plautus, or Walter Scott, relates to love, and to Christ’s commandment, “That you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). As the composer puts it:

“Regardless of varying literary aesthetics and traditions, all texts, including those that comprise the Mass Ordinary, are reconciled by a common appeal/commandment: love and to love. By embracing different languages and texts, the appeal becomes universal and Missa gentis humanae humbly reveals itself as Mankind’s Mass.”

The resulting work is a tour de force, presenting significant challenges, both musical and linguistic, to its eight performers. To realize it, both at the Missa’s first performance and on this premiere recording, Gawlick feels himself fortunate to have worked with Wachner and the eight carefully selected soloists from the Choir of Trinity Wall Street. Having the benefit of a fellow composer’s conducting insights was particularly welcome, and furthermore, he says, “As a composer and especially as a conductor of sacred choral music, Julian knows the tradition, and I cannot overstate how important that was to me.” As for the eight singers, Gawlick confesses: “To say that they’re consummate professionals doesn’t do them justice. I’m still floored by the level of their artistry, musicianship and linguistic ability. I’ve never worked with artists of this caliber – they made my Mass their own.

The special success of their collaboration was recognized at the Missa’s world premiere in Boston, which drew a rave review from the Classical Scene:

“Gawlick writes in a way that luxuriates in the individual voice, and yet incorporates it into a seamless whole, by way of beautifully voiced chords. … Julian Wachner and his stunning Choir of Trinity Wall Street delivered a sensational world premiere. … Clearly, Gawlick knows this kind of choir; it is almost as if this piece had been written with this ensemble in mind.”

Indeed, the review concluded: “The excellence of last night’s rendering suggests that this work will rarely be performed so expertly again, and that the forthcoming Musica Omnia recording will be the primary means of its future reception.”

Full details of Ralf Yusuf Gawlick: Missa gentis humanae, which was recorded in the celebrated acoustics of the Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, are provided below.

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Trinity Wall Street
One of the oldest, largest and most vibrant of all Episcopal parishes, Trinity Wall Street is located in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district, where it has created a dynamic home for great music. Serving as director of Trinity’s Music and the Arts Program – as well as principal conductor of the Trinity Choir, the period-instrument Trinity Baroque Orchestra and the contemporary-music ensemble-in-residence NOVUS NY – Julian Wachner also oversees all liturgical, professional and community music and arts programming at Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel. The music at Trinity ranges from large-scale oratorios to chamber music, from intimate a cappella singing to jazz improvisation. All concerts at Trinity Wall Street are professionally filmed and webcast live at
Two new premiere recordings from Trinity Wall Street

Julian Wachner: Symphony No. 1/Works for Orchestra and Voices

Choir of Trinity Wall Street
Julian Wachner, conductor

3-CD digipack with 36-page booklet from Musica Omnia
Digital downloads from Naxos International

CD 1
Symphony No. 1: Incantations and Lamentations (2001)
Come, My Dark-Eyed One (2008)

CD 2
Regina Coeli (2001)
Canticles (1990/94)
Jubilate Deo (2006)
Psalm Cycle I (1989)

CD 3
Blue Green Red (2014)
Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances (1995)
Holy, Holy, Holy (2009)
Joy to the World (2004)
All Creatures of our God and King (1992)
Psalm Cycle III (2003)
Somerville Service (2001)
Ralf Yusuf Gawlick: Missa gentis humanae, Op. 16

Eight-voice a cappella choir from the Choir of Trinity Wall Street
Julian Wachner, conductor

Missa gentis humanae (2010)

Single-CD digipack with 32-page booklet from Musica Omnia
Digital downloads from Naxos International
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© 21C Media Group, July 2014


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