The Singing Rooms (Telarc) Since taking over the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 2001, conductor Robert Spano has built ongoing relationships with what is called the Atlanta School of Composers, an extended circle of “composers-in-occasional-residence.” One of its members, Jennifer Higdon, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, but a year before she wrote it, she was sidling into violin-concerto territory with
The Singing Rooms. This nearly 40-minute piece began as a work for mixed chorus plus solo violin (specifically the violinist Jennifer Koh, featured in this performance), but it gradually evolved to include a full symphony orchestra. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus is a powerful ensemble, the legacy of its former director Robert Shaw, but the recorded sound obscures its diction here; fortunately, the texts by poet Jeanne Minahan (a colleague of Higdon’s on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music) are printed in the CD booklet. Attractive and ultimately conservative in its language — think of Ralph Vaughan Williams, but caffeinated — The Singing Rooms is especially likely to appeal to choral enthusiasts, who will also admire Alvin Singleton’s PraiseMaker (1998), its CD-mate.
PraiseMaker is a more concentrated chorus-and-orchestra paean to humanistic striving that prolongs the spirit of midcentury musical Americanism. Completing the playlist is a luminous interpretation of Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, in which Spano demonstrates his success in refining the Atlanta orchestra over the past decade. — James M. Keller