Divine Redeemer with Christine Brewer & Paul Jacobs; Mark McGuire’s Beyond Belief
Christine Brewer has enjoyed a long love affair with Santa Fe, having sung in five productions at our opera house, from 1999 (when she debuted in the title role of Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos) through 2010 (as an imposing Lady Billows in Britten’s Albert Herring). For her latest CD, she pages through the notebook every soprano church soloist keeps at the ready, alighting on such ecclesiastical evergreens as Gounod’s “O Divine Redeemer!” and Franck’s “Panis angelicus,” both of which, her performances remind us, are wonderful pieces if you pay attention rather than read the announcements in the weekly church bulletin. Other items are less familiar, including Lili Boulanger’s haunting “Pie Jesu,” an early “Salve Regina” by Puccini (he recycled it in his first opera, Le villi), and three songs by Hugo Wolf arranged with organ accompaniments by Max Reger. The organist is the impressive Paul Jacobs, one of the few American concert all-stars on the instrument. He also gives fine readings of solo works by Nadia Boulanger and Bach, plus a virtuosic rendition of the dazzling, borderline insane Toccata and Fugue from Reger’s Twelve Pieces, Op. 59. The echoing acoustics of the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee, with its huge organ of 115 ranks containing 6,804 pipes, prove flattering for Brewer. Her upper reaches come less easily than once they did, but she still emits a powerful, luxurious tone.