In barely a decade of existence, Merton College’s new choral foundation has ambitiously redefined the choral landscape of the great university city of Oxford through its twin commitment to excellence & innovation.
Now, focusing entirely on American music of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, this latest in a series of thematically conceived recordings begins as a striking ‘double portrait’ of two composers who have written or arranged works especially for the choir.
David Lang’s austere choral postminimalism, informed by a background of Jewish liturgy and thought, provides a striking foil to Nico Muhly’s more richly referential approach; Muhly fell in love with the Anglican tradition as a young chorister in Rhode Island.
Two solo organ works by Muhly, and a transcription from his mentor Philip Glass’s opera Satyagraha, widen the expressive gamut still further – from whimsical allusiveness to meditative calm – and are set in context alongside the more stylistically eclectic yet no less powerfully communicative sound-worlds of Libby Larsen and Abbie Betinis. Two final choral items draw on pre-existing traditions of the spiritual and the Baptist hymnal in moving demonstration of the New World’s ability to honour its past while gazing Firmly ahead.