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from the archives:
Newsletter, Winter 1993-4
"A mirror to the American
Camerata's newest recording of American music, the Erato CD entitled An American
Christmas, was prominently featured in record stores across the country during
the Christmas season. Initial critical response to the new album has been enthusiastic;
the Boston Globe called it our " most recent installment in a long and distinguished
series of recordings associated with Christmas." Clarke Bustard of the Richmond
Times Dispatch named it "the most touching and genuine Christmas disc I've heard
in years...a bracing alternative to the treacle that dribbles from shopping mall
sound systems and all too many choir lofts and concert stages, year after year."
New York magazine labeled the recording "Tops in Town," and the Detroit Free Press,
predicting that the album is "destined to be a classic in years to come" says
it contains "one compelling discovery after another as it holds a mirror to the
European critics, too, have greeted the new recording with joy. Le Monde de la
Musique awarded American Christmas its highest distinction, the Choc label, while
the Paris review Compact praised the "ideal performances, in which the beauty
of the singing is on the same level as the 'rightness' of the feeling."
Camerata reaches new audiences in Europe. Our recording of An American Christmas
appeared in Europe last fall about the same time as as series of tour concerts
we presented in France and Germany. The series began in Paris with The American
Vocalist at Paris' Théatre de la Ville, our fourth invitation to that prestigious
venue. Assisted by the American Cathedral Choir, Camerata soloists Azéma, Swanson,
Anker, Hite, McCabe, Nke Aka, and Lepkoff serenaded a standing-room-only audience
with some real and honest Americana: Calvinist psalms, New England fuguing tunes,
and southern folkhymns. Most all of this was unfamiliar to the French public despite
the increasing, relentless presence of American mass culture in that land. The
grateful audience responded with a prolonged, cheering ovation.
Later during the same month, we moved from France to Germany with performances
of The Sacred Bridge. Our concerts of this Judeo-Christian program in the Frankfurt
and Cologne regions were laden with a heavy charge of memory. It was wonderful
to sense the empathy and enthusiasm of our audiences, and we hope to return to
Germany in the near future with further presentations of this repertoire.
Nueva España set for American
When we began researching the
Colonial Latin-American repertoire a couple of years back, we suspected there
was adventure in store. The fruits of our exploration became a Columbus-year festival
concert at Tanglewood, and then an American Public Radio special, drawing one
of the strongest audience responses in the history of that network. Finally, the
CD recording, Nueva España: Close encounters in the New World is being prepared
for midwinter release in the United States.
Nueva España is one of Joel Cohen's most original, inventive anthology programs,
drawing on both Spanish and New World sources to create a musical panorama of
astonishing breadth and variety. Thanks to generous support from Erato and the
Boston Symphony Orchestra, Camerata fronted a large, diverse assembly of musicians
for this production. Besides soloists Anne Azéma, Dana Hanchard, Derek Lee Ragin,
Richard Duguay, and Daniel McCabe, the augmented instrumental group includes Boston
Shawm and Sackbut Ensemble, as well as a continuo group of organ, triple harp,
and baroque guitars. Choral groups participating are the Schola Cantorum of Boston,
directed by Fred Jodry, and the astonishing Haitian womens' chorus from the Dorchester
congregation, Les Amis de la Sagesse -- you just have to hear them singing the
seventeenth-century guaracha dance that ends the program.
Like An American Christmas, the recording of Nueva España won the coveted Choc
rating in December from Le Monde de la Musique. The double award to one ensemble
in the same month is virtually unheard-of in the annals of this notoriously finicky
journal for Parisian connoisseurs.
Music of Wounds and
Wonder: the Audience goes home singing
Kelkheim -- Traversing
heights and depths, penetrating into joy and sorrow. Singing the rapture of love,
enveloping God-intoxicated mysticism in the music of the spheres. There has not
been a concert such as this in years. A bewitched audience in the St. Martin chapel
heard these musical miracles and whispered "this is sheer heaven." And at the
end, the concertgoers left for home, singing.
The motive for this rapture was the final concert of the 1993 "Early Music Days,"
animated by the unbelievable Maestro Joel Cohen and his Boston Camerata. Musicians
who are terrifyingly good; they demonstrate where other specialists in early music
have been left behind.
With the Boston Camerata -- Anne Azéma (soprano), Daniel McCabe (baritone), Jesse
Lepkoff (flutes), Carol Lewis (vielle) and the director, Joel Cohen (baritone
and lutes) there are qualities, independent of technical questions, that even
the most gifted cannot acquire by study: unfettered joy in their own mastery;
unfettered joy in communicating with the public...
(Franfurter Höchst, November 29, 1993)
Using the subtle and richly evocative anthology approach of which he is a master,
Joel Cohen has created the sound equivalent of a dialectical exposé, in which
this recital's concept is examined from different points of view. The compositions
he brings together are like the different pieces of a big jigsaw puzzle, allowing
us to contemplate the mixture of styles and traditions. This is holds true as
much for choice of works, juxtaposing polyphony by Victoria, hymns in Quechua
and Nahuatl, songs of Galicia, dances imported from Africa, as for the ensemble
of performers, mixing the now well-known voices of the Boston Camerata with the
exotic tone-colors, astonishingly effective, of the black womens' choir Les Amis
de la Sagesse. Interest constantly renewed, perpetual musical pleasure: few recitals
have evoked, as this one does, the extraordinary youthful energy that can grow
from unexpected musical encounters...(Le Monde de la Musique, December, 1993)
Notes from all over...
Camerata's music filled movie theaters from coast to coast at year's end; the
Hollywood blockbuster film Geronimo incorporates two minutes of singing from the
1992 Erato release, The American Vocalist, on its soundtrack. Credits are duly
given at film's end for the performances by Camerata and Schola Cantorum. What
remained unacknowledged, alas, were the extensive borrowings and reworkings elsewhere
in the film score of other material from our CD... Our recording of the Gilles
Requiem, released last spring continues to win praise: the English journal CD
Review calls it "an important and first-rate recording of a much-neglected work"...
Upcoming releases on Erato by the Boston Camerata's extended family include The
Unicorn by Anne Azéma and Le Fou sur le pont: Songs of Bernard de Ventadorn by
the Camerata Mediterranea; both of these are due out in Europe by late spring....
Camerata's début appearance at the Israel Festival is set for next May...To all
our friends colleagues, and supporters, we wish a very happy and prosperous 1994.
© 1993 The Boston Camerata Inc.
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