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Transcriptions adagio for choir

J. S. Bach/Knut Nystedt Immortal Bach Komm süßer Tod BWV 478 - Samuel Barber Agnus Dei Adagio opus 11 - Alban Berg/Clytus Gottwald Die Nachtigall - Frédéric Chopin/Franck Krawczyk Lacrimosa Etude op.10 n°6 ; Lulajze, Jezuniu Largo, Sonate op 58- Claude Debussy/Clytus Gottwald Les Angélus Gustav Mahler/Gérard Pesson Kein deutscher Himmel Adagietto -Gustav Mahler/Clytus Gottwald Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen - Maurice Ravel/Clytus Gottwald Soupir - Hugo Wolf/Clytus Gottwald Das verlassene Mägdlein; Ein altes Bild

Accentus Chamber Choir/Laurence Equilbey

Naïve Classique V 4965 [TT: 52'22"]

This latest CD by a crack professional chamber choir, founded by its conductor Laurence Equilbey, may, I fear, be one Musical Pointer towards the future of listening and the struggling record business. Naïve is an enterprising Paris based record company, now distributed by Select in UK, and well worth exploring. They go in for attractive, if sometimes irritating, designs for their website, recently re-designed (the earlier version was hard to navigate), as does Accentus for theirs.

Adagio is picking up on music as therapy for people who lead busy, hectic lives. We need, we're told, soothing slow music to counter 'stress'. Most classical music depends on integration of contrast, but here we have some fifty minutes of uninterrupted slow music. There is a lot of special pleading in the accompanying notes; transcription of music for string quartet (Barber's Adagio) and Mahler's Adagietto for bowed and plucked strings (the harp) is OK because, don't you know, voices too vibrate strings, the vocal chords - - !

Some of these transcriptions work well, others are awful. The Barber as Agnus Dei is quite popular; I far prefer the original in its place in the string quartet between two fast movements; the Mahler Adagietto I found frankly embarrassing. Chopin in this guise, with strings oscillated by breath instead of hammers, is practically unrecognisable!

But there are some successes. I've always felt that the piano accompaniment of Das verlassene Mägdlein lacks sostenuto and is hard to bring off. The Ravel and Berg transcriptions bring in some of Ligeti's special techniques to good effect. So do try it for yourselves, if possible before purchasing. No criticism of the expertise of this splendid professional choir of some thirty singers, nor of the recording. All the words are provided, with translations, and pleasing photos.

After listening through I turned to Classic FM briefly; it was a Saturday afternoon programme of soothing, slow music guaranteed, we were assured, to disperse the stress of the working week - - .

This choir is versatile and I can recommend warmly their CDs of Poulenc, Dusapin and their collaboration in Traetta's opera Antigone; they have an ongoing relationship with the Opera Leonardo da Vinci of Rouen.

I think this CD will do well, and I look forward to hearing occasionally the more original and interesting of its tracks in the radio programmes which should become its natural home; but I do not go to music just to be put gently to sleep.


© Peter Grahame Woolf