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