The Crossing / Donald Nally

Voyages: Benjamin C.S. Boyle, Robert Convery

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The Philadelphia group The Crossing is perhaps the most vocally virtuosic among the American small choirs, and they combine ambitious programming with the virtuosity. Voyages offers a sterling example of their work. The program features just two works, both settings of Hart Crane's long, elliptical poem of the same name. The two composers approach their tasks in entirely different ways, which facilitates close listening to the texts and the choir's precise harmonies. Robert Convery's six-movement work is a cappella, and follows Crane's poem closely, using the entire text while musically reproducing the links between Crane's sections. The setting by Benjamin C.S. Boyle (in full: Voyages, Cantata No. 2, Op. 41), by contrast, has an accompaniment from a small orchestra, with vocal soloists. Crane's poem, to quote the booklet, is "abbreviated and rearranged" by the composer; what he does, you might also say, is to abstract the poem's dramatic high points. His setting is pictorial and passionate; sample the second section, "Seascape," for a taste. The choir's performances are ideal, and they perhaps outshine the little orchestra in Boyle's setting. Crane's poem is a unique mix of the Romantic and the Modernist, and Donald Nally and The Crossing have done it full justice here.

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