Now available in discrete multi-channel surround SACD!
Dave Brubeck joins forces with the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Voices, baritone Alan Opie and the Dave Brubeck Quartet for an incredible 2-CD collection based on sacred text. Classical Brubeck is comprised of four specific works: Beloved Son, Pange Lingua Variations,Voice of the Holy Spirit, and Regret.
This recording, under the direction of Brubeck's longtime associate Russell Gloyd, took place over four days at the historic Abbey Road Studios—without the benefit of preceding concert performances. Even the improvisational sections were recorded in real time. The resulting discs both reaffirm the quality of Brubeck's compositions and attest to the dedication and professionalism of all the performers involved.
Improvisation is the connecting link for the four works recorded here. Each contains one or more improvisatory interludes from the Dave Brubeck Quartet or the composer-pianist alone. These interludes create moments when the orchestral and choral performers give way as the jazz musicians interpret the written music.
Beloved Son (1978) is an Easter oratorio in three movements, composed over an intense 21-day period for the American Lutheran Women's Convention in Minneapolis. The text is drawn from the verses of the noted Lutheran poet, Dr. Herbert Brokering, and each of the work's three movements takes its name from one of Brokering's poems. "Abba Father" begins with rocking motifs in the orchestra and soft, incomplete phrases from the chorus, intended to suggest the lapping of the river Cedron and distant voices heard at night in the Garden of Gethsemane. The baritone soloist sings the sorrowful words of Jesus, calling on his disciples to commune with him and pray. The children's choir punctuates with the words of his prayerful address, "Abba, Father," and the piano improvisation is based on their recurring chant. The movement ends softly as the Son of God reconciles himself to the will of his Father.
A drum cadence introduces the death march up the slope to Calvary in the second movement, "Eli." The words of the chorus recall Christ's betrayal and trial, building to the crowd's loud calls for his death. An improvisational section paints the unexpected darkness that fell "over all the earth" (Luke 23:44). When the tumultuous crucifixion is over, a sorrowful chorale, "Weep, ye waters of the Jordan," accompanies the entombment and embalming of the body.
The third movement leads to the resurrection and the women's encounter with the reassuring angel at the empty tomb. Their conversation continues above rhythmic choral chants of "Oh, Rabboni," but despair eventually turns to comprehension and mounting proclamations of "He is risen!" All join in the closing affirmation, "I am with you always, to the end of time."
Pange Lingua Variations, (1983) subtitled "A Celebration for Sacramento," was commissioned by the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in the city of Sacramento, California, which is itself named for the holy sacrament of the Last Supper. The well-known Gregorian hymn hails the mystery of the Body turned to bread and the Blood changed to wine for the sake of sinners.
Using both the traditional Latin text and an English adaptation by his wife, Iola Brubeck, the composer has come up with a free chorale-variation structure: Each of the stanzas (except the last) is sung first in original Gregorian Chant form, followed by a variation for the chorus and orchestra, most incorporating improvisations. As Brubeck explains, "I searched for the meaning of each stanza and tried to convey that thought musically, so that each variation is a miniature meditation."
The third variation, taking its cue from the music's possible origin as a march, is given a martial treatment, including the improvisation. The fifth is the most extensive, because that stanza expresses homage to the Blessed Sacrament. Its setting bears a resemblance to a Lutheran chorale from Bach's time, when composers generally avoided writing parallel fourths and fifths. In the other sections, however, Brubeck has consciously allowed himself to be influenced by the parallel movement that abounds in the medieval music from which the chant sprang.
The Voice of the Holy Spirit (1985) subtitled "Tongues of Fire," musically tells the story of Pentecost, as set down in the book of Acts. The power of the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ's disciples in rushing wind and tongues of fire. Suddenly finding themselves able to speak and be understood in various contemporary languages, they begin preaching the gospel to people of diverse nationalities, "thus undoing," Brubeck notes, "the confusion and separateness imposed at the Tower of Babel."
For this dramatic scene, Brubeck chose John 3:16 as representative of the message the apostles would have proclaimed. This was set in a number of languages specified in the biblical account, including Coptic, Libyan, ancient Greek, and Aramaic. The cynics' derisive suggestion that the speakers are drunk, "New Wine," takes on the aspect of a drinking song and incorporates a particularly raucous improvisation.
Though the Holy Spirit is the focus of this work, Brubeck has chosen not to have its voice represented exclusively by his soloist. "Every voice or instrument is a representation of that Spirit," he says. "Philosophically, [it] speaks through the Biblical text. The baritone soloist and mixed chorus often exchange roles." This fluidity of perspective continues throughout the work, which incorporates other events from the book of Acts along with some of the most famous passages from the letters of Paul, closing with a general blessing.
Regret (2001) is an atmospheric piece for string orchestra incorporating an improvisatory solo by Brubeck. Imbued with wistful remorse, this music would make a fine score for a short ballet. In the words of the composer, "It is a sweet sadness, a longing for lost moments, might-have-beens, and a past that cannot be re-lived. Perhaps it is an emotion unique to someone who has lived as many decades as I."
Dave Brubeck has been a force in music for decades. He first came to fame as leader and pianist of the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the 1950s. He became—and remains—one of the foremost artists in the world of jazz, and he has proven himself capable of producing great music in the classical field as well. His most notable concert-hall works have been for chorus and orchestra, but he has also composed orchestral pieces, ballet suites, chamber music, and works for one and two pianos. Brubeck has received the National Medal of the Arts and honorary degrees from nine universities in America, Germany, and the United Kingdom. His alma mater, the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, has established the Brubeck Institute to promote appreciation of contemporary music, with emphasis on the art of improvisation.
Russell Gloyd has established a diverse career as a conductor, producer, and arranger. Since 1976 he has been associated with Dave Brubeck and has conducted the many symphonic and choral appearances of the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the United States and around the world.
As a guest conductor, Gloyd has appeared with orchestras throughout the world including those of Washington, DC, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, Russia, Italy and Poland, among others. Gloyd has also recorded with some of the premier choral organizations of the United States. His previous CD for Telarc was the live recording of the Brubeck mass To Hope! A Celebration (CD-80430), taken from the performance which Gloyd conducted from the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Librettos are available at the The Brubeck Institute.