Carmina Mundi, Aachen

Chormusik im 20. Jahrhundert

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Chormusik im 20. Jahrhundert is a collection on the German label Ebs highlighting the talents of Carmina Mundi, Aachen and its leader, Harald Nickoll, in works of Frank Martin, Arvo Pärt, Werner Haentjes, the Alleluia of Randall Thompson, and a setting of the Salve Regina written by Nickoll. Carmina Mundi, Aachen has produced some outstanding recordings for Ebs, and its recorded edition of the choral music of Hugo Distler is one of the jewels in the Ebs crown. So one would expect both label and artist to be on their absolute best on a package such as Chormusik im 20. Jahrhundert, which turns attention to the group rather than to the literature. Unfortunately, this is not the case; the recording is distant and muffled and does not even have the responsiveness in terms of frequency range that one might associate with a choral recording made in the 1950s. The performances, likewise, are rather lax and do not seem to betray much motivation among the choir or its leader. The Mass for Double Chorus of Frank Martin is thick, blocky, and not well articulated and the sopranos go astray here and there. The Pärt Magnificat is about the best thing here, and it can be found better -- much better -- elsewhere in several recordings. The works unique to this disc, those by Haentjes and Nickoll, are interesting, but are only performed in a rather half-hearted way on this recording; one might expect the leader to take especial care with his own work, but Nickoll plods through it in the same way as he does all the others. The booklet has its own share of gaffes as well, as it identifies this version of the Thompson Alleluia as being a "First Recording," which it certainly is not. Ebs' Chormusik im 20. Jahrhundert may look good on paper, as it has an attractive front cover and a nice lineup of twentieth century choral masterworks. Nevertheless, looks can be deceiving, and in this case, the product simply does not live up to its promise.

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