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CD Review

More Tears From Heaven

RCA 63450
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750):
  • Mass in B minor, BWV 232: Crucifixus
  • Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244
  • #1, Kommt, ihr Tochter
  • #78, Wir setzen uns mit Tranen nieder
  • George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
  • Messiah, HWV 56
  • Surely He hath borne our griefs
  • And with His stripes we are healed
  • All we like sheep have gone astray
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943): Song Op. 34 #14, Vocalise
  • Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791): Requiem in D minor, K 626: Lacrymosa
  • Samuel Barber (1910-1981): Agnus Dei Dei, Op. 11
  • Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674): Jephte: Plorate filii Jerusalem
  • Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901): Requiem Mass: Lacrymosa
  • Thomas Tallis (circa 1505-1585): Spem in alium
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Leontyne Price, soprano
José Van Dam, bass
New London Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Royal Philharmonic Chorus/Thomas Beecham
Bavarian Radio Chorus/Colin Davis
Robert Shaw Chorale/Robert Shaw
Cambridge Trinity College Choir/Richard Marlow
Cantus Colln/Konrad Junghänel
Chicago Symphony Chorus/Georg Solti
Munich Bach Collegium/Enoch zu Guttenberg
Musica Sacra/Richard Westenburg
RCA Victor Red Seal 09026-63450-2 DDD/ADD 70:09
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This is a follow-up to BMG Classics' successful Tears From Heaven compilation (09026-68606-2). That CD's goal was to offer "heartfelt classical music to evoke the tears that cleanse the soul, music for moments of reflection and meditation." Although that statement was carefully non-sectarian, the disc's contents were thoroughly Christian – mostly excerpts from requiem masses and other sacred works.

More Tears From Heaven is made from the same formula. The downcast tone is consistent, but monotony is avoided by varying the style and era. Pre-Baroque works by Thomas Tallis (Spem in alium) and Carissimi ("Plorate filii Jerusalem" from Jephte) mingle comfortably with Barber's Adagio (heard here in its a cappella choral version as an Agnus Dei) and a Stokowskian tranformation of Rachmaninoff's Vocalise for orchestra and wordless chorus. The latter is the only non-sacred work here, but the lachrymose arrangement picks it up from the recital hall and drops it into the funeral home, where it rests resplendent among the red velvet. Three excerpts by Bach (two from the St. Matthew Passion and one from the Mass in B minor), a bit of Handel's Messiah, and the "Lacrymosa" from Mozart's Requiem give this collection its backbone.

The performances are uniformly excellent. The St. Matthew Passion choruses, conducted by Enoch zu Guttenberg, are surprisingly assertive, and what Beecham's Messiah lacks in authenticity it gains in spirit. Other highlights are Janet Baker ripe mezzo in the "Lacrymosa" from Verdi's Requiem, and a beautifully polished Barber Agnus Dei from the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge – quite the finest version I've heard. The inclusion of the "Crucifixus" from Bach's Mass in B minor in the old Robert Shaw Chorale recording reminds me that BMG has reissued very few of his recordings in the CD era. Now that the master is dead, can he hope for better? I certainly hope so.

I'm not going to be using More Tears From Heaven to "cleanse my soul," but I am going to be enjoying it whenever I want a varied and not too interruptive choral compilation. Would you like to borrow my hankie?

Copyright © 1999, Raymond Tuttle

Trumpet