We congratulate the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus on their recent Grammy wins! Here is a beautiful album by the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, highlighting some of the finest choral music of the 20th century.
VOICES 1900 / 2000
A choral journey through the twentieth century
San Francisco Symphony Chorus
Vance George, director
Tavener: Song for Athene (Alleluia) [1990) • Ligeti: Reggel (Morning)  •
Debussy: Dieu! Qu’il La Fait Bon Regarder  from Trois Chansons de Charles d’Orléans  • Badings: La Nuit en Mer from Trois Chansons Bretonnes  • Poulenc: Bois meurtri… from Un Soir de Neige  •
Rütti: Ite missa est from Missa Angelorum  • Thompson: Alleluia  •
Copland/Conte: Simple Gifts [1944/1997] • Kernis: How the Soul Speaks to God from Ecstatic Meditations  Melodi Dalton, soprano · Dale Tracy, tenor • Susa: Winds of May from Six Joyce Songs, Vol II  • Lauridsen: O Love, Be Fed With Apples While You May  • Barber: The Coolin (The Fair Haired One) from Reincarnations  • Monk: Earth Seen From Above  • Monk: Other Worlds Revealed from Atlas  • trad./arr. A. Parker: Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal • trad./arr. J. Erb: Shenandoah • Steven Rogino, baritone • Kern: All the Things You Are from Very Warm for May  • Bernstein: Make Our Garden Grow from Candide  Eileen Meredith, soprano · Dale Tracy, tenor
“The beautiful singing of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus (including some exceptional solo work), the subtly nuanced sound, and texts that speak of the gently redemptive links between love and death, make a tremendous effect. The recording, made in Davies Symphony Hall where the San Francisco Symphony performs, has a natural sense of space as if it were illuminated by an audio equivalent of light.” Gramophone
“Most of the music chosen glows with spiritual life… Vance George is a top-flight choral conductor who knows how to create a gorgeously hushed choral sound, then takes his time with the music so we can revel in its beauty right along with him.” American Record Guide
Davies Hall in San Francisco was the setting for this luminous recording, our second project with long-time SFSC Music Director Vance George and his superlative chorus. Their first Delos recording is a popular Christmas album, appropriately titled “Christmas by the Bay” [DE 3238], which itself received a Grammy nomination in 1999.
“Voices…” begins with one of the choral icons of the 1990s, John Tavener’s Song for Athene, which was notably performed at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. Vance George wrote in his introduction to this album:
Voices 1900/2000 is a choral portrait of the past century. It is a story of Romanticism, Expressionism, Impressionism and Minimalism. The twentieth century invented new music and searched for truth in other cultures and religions. It was a century of experimentation, a kind of “anything goes.” But, any style eventually exhausts itself: Schoenberg’s atonality, Stravinsky’s neo-classicism, Orff’s neo-medievalism, folk-flavored nationalism of Kodály, Hindemith’s Gebrauchsmusik, the neo-Romanticism of Prokofiev and Britten, or the avant-garde of Cage, Berio, Penderecki and Lutoslawski. Listeners and composers created a dartboard effect; one composer would suggest an idea or style and others would throw darts at the same bull’s-eye.
Throughout the century, tonality existed side-by-side with atonality and polytonality. Mid-century, when Stravinsky and Schoenberg were at their peak of popularity, Leonard Bernstein was moved to write an apology for being an old-fashioned tonal composer. But, by the 1980s audiences were rejecting non-tonal music and seemed eager for the minimalist arch-tonal works of Glass, Adams and Reich. At the same time, the works of John Adams, David Conte, Aaron Jay Kernis, Morten Lauridsen, Conrad Susa, Eric Whitacre, Einojuhani Rautavaara and Jake Hegge were redefining tonality.
The twentieth century was exciting and brought us a rich variety of classical music, jazz, folk, Broadway and pop. Musicologists transcribed everything from plainchant to Isaac to Bach. Early music groups and stylistic performances were firmly established. The technology of recordings, film, television and the internet made “early music” and “new music” readily available and often programmed together.
Only George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein were successful in mixing these elements into a “crossover” style. Bernstein’s Candide and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess stand strong beside Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Orff’s Carmina burana and John Adams’ Harmonium, all works the San Francisco Symphony Chorus has enjoyed performing in its twenty-eight year history. Twenty years ago we premiered Harmonium. Today it is considered a masterpiece. In January 2001 we premiered Adams’ new work El Niño. What’s next? Who knows?
As time passes, the history of twentieth century music will be rewritten again and again from the perspective of what lasts into this century. Who will write the new music? Is there a Monteverdi out there we do not yet recognize? We are all a part of a living process.
The repertory for this retrospective was chosen for its quality and because it represents a major style. We hope you will find this an engaging view of the 20th century. It has provided us with humbling insights as we look back and smile. To paraphrase Beethoven: May this go from our hearts to your heart.