Kay Johannsen / solistenensemble stimmkunst

Rejoice: Vocal Music by Kay Johannsen

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Composer Kay Johannsen is better known in his native Germany than elsewhere; the Carus label has devoted several splendidly recorded albums to his choral works. Johannsen is Kantor at the Stiftskirche in the city of Stuttgart, where he also plays the organ and directs several instrumental ensembles and choirs. One of those, the Solistenensemble Stimmkunst, is heard here, and this precise 16-voice group will cause you to marvel once again at the depth of talent among Germany's regional choirs. The Johannsen selections on this album are in Latin, German, and English, and some are accompanied (Johannsen appears on piano, but the organist is Kensuke Ohira). Others are a cappella, and there are various tonal approaches, although the music is essentially conservative and doesn't stray far from conventional tonality. All the pieces have in common a sensitive, flexible approach to the texts. Most of the texts come from the Psalms, and Johannsen's rhythmically free style is beautifully tailored to the prose texts. Sample the English-language The Eyes of All Look to You, from Psalm 145. A piece like this might well appeal to choirs looking to expand beyond John Rutter or American choral favorites. Recommended.

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