Winner for Three Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album, Best Choral Performance Other Than Opera and Best Engineered Recording, Classical Barber's Prayers of Kierkegaard was commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation in 1942, but the composer did not complete the work until January, 1954. It is a setting, in the form of a single-movement cantata, of four prayers by the Danish theologian and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855).
Robert Shaw gave the American premiere of Bartók's Cantata Profana at Carnegie Hall in 1952. For this recording, he has used a refined version of the English translation of the text he made for that premiere performance.
Vaughan Williams's Dona Nobis Pacem was intended as a warning of the threat of war in Europe in the mid-1930s. The texts are taken from the poetry of Walt Whitman, the Bible, the Latin Mass, and from a speech made in the British House of Commons during the Crimean War in the 1850s by John Bright.