massive works - recommendations

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NcLean
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Joined: 26 Mar 2010 06:43

massive works - recommendations

Post by NcLean »

Hi all,

Although I know how to use a search function, humans tend to be able to recommend personal opinions a lot better.

I'm looking for recommendations for music that will work really well with a choir of 250+.

For practical reasons, Mahler is not an ideal option.

Examples of stuff that might work:
Beethoven Missa Solemnis; Poulenc Gloria; Berlioz Req / Te Deum; Vaughan William's A Sea Symphony ... it doesn't have to have big orchestra - Rach Vespers works well at this size.

So, surprise me - it doesn't have to necessitate massive, it certainly needn't be difficult or "a big sing". It just needs to work really well for giant choirs. What would you recommend? What would you like to hear done like this?

(X-posted at IMSLP :)
bobnotts
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by bobnotts »

Hi there

One piece that springs to mind immediately is Tallis' Spem in alium which requires at least 40 voices to perform (then it would only be one to a part so 250+ singers would mean that you would have a more robust performance). When I performed it, it was only one to a part which meant that perhaps a few singers got lost and it may not have had its full effect. It's a cappella so may be a bit of a waste of the orchestra if you have one for the concert. Anyway, something to consider.

Other than that, you could try listening to some of the pieces listed in the "More than 16 voices" and "More than 4 choirs" categories. However, I can't speak for any of them except Spem. No doubt some others who regularly post on this forum will have other suggestions.

Robert
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pml
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by pml »

The OP perhaps should have mentioned the choir he's thinking of is largely amateur, and while it has in the past tackled things like Spem the performance in that case wasn't convincing, and was assisted by having instrumental doublings (strings for choirs I to IV, brass for choirs V to VIII). Large choral-orchestral works of the romantic period such as Berlioz Requiem or Bruckner Te Deum are more the type of request I think are required - and the poster already knows what I think! The work should be of moderate difficulty (riot of 40-part counterpoint not really a Good Idea) and of a typical length for a concert (upwards of an hour minimum).

Regards, PML
NcLean
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by NcLean »

Shorter works are most welcome! RVW's "A Sea Symphony" would be a useful major work as a concert centrepiece, and that's only about 40 min or so.

If the centrepiece is much less than two hours, I would expect to be adding shorter works.

For instance, Mendelssohn's Op 79 No 6 Am Charfreitage http://www2.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Am_ ... ndelssohn)
(SSAATTBB) sounds OK with 20 voices, but I'd bet good money that it would be magnificent with 250 voices.

Of course, much of what would work well with jumbo choirs is Romantic or romantic-inheritance. However, although most renaissance-y music is awful with too many (amateur) singers, there are some (rare) exceptions: there are a few Gabrieli works that just sound as though he's trying to get as many performers as possible going at once.

So, whilst recommendations coinciding with PML's restrictions would be welcome, those that don't are also welcome.
carlos
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by carlos »

If you have soloists at hand, you could give Orff's Carmina Burana a try. I've sung it with big choirs (120+ singers) and it sounds great!
vaarky
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by vaarky »

Mozart's C Minor Mass? Didn't suffer from being sung with a large chorus, not overly difficult. Needs a very, very good soprano soloist, though.

You might want to look at the rep of other similarly-sized choirs with singers at about the same level for inspiration, such as perhaps Collegiate Chorale in NY:
http://www.collegiatechorale.org/about/
EmqU
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by EmqU »

"Miserere", Op. 44 from H. M. Gorecki mentions: "The choir should consist of at least 120 singers". That should also be true for his "Totus tuus" (both not in public domain: the first is published by Chester Music, the latter by Boosey & Hawkes). There are some nice recordings of both.
On the other hand, I think most Russian religious music does very well with greater choirs (Rachmaninov, Ippolitov and many others). And the romantics of course: Mendelssohn, Liszt, but also a lesser known Flemisch guy: Jules Van Nuffel.
And to stay with the Flemisch romantic composers: Peter Benoit. In general - apart from Gorecki - the Romantic period is the era of the large choirs, so I've been teached (Schubert a.o.).
Oh, and there is a CD, called "XL" which contains the "Spem in alium", mentioned earlier, but also a modern variation on it by A. Pitts, and other works for greater ensembles.
pml
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by pml »

Ha! I sang the Górecki Miserere in my most recent concert a couple of weeks back - and we made do with 28 voices. It would be interminably painful to do with non-sight-reading people - 30 minutes of nearly unrelieved A minor.

The XL piece by Pitts was down on the menu for the concert that included Spem (doubled by strings and brass) but sensibly the committee removed it prior to rehearsals starting (they didn't follow up my recommendation of dropping Spem as well). The main reason for not throwing huge ensembles at 40-Part Counterpoint (it has been done) is that you need competency across the entire ensemble to prevent the outcome sounding like the auditory equivalent of gluggy rice pudding.

VW's Sea Symphony is more like 65 or 70 minutes, not 40, so it's definitely the major half of a concert if a short work can hold weight with it on the other side of an interval.
cdu
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by cdu »

Here are some pieces, which you probably know, that work well with huge choruses. They have the added advantage, here in the States at least, of being performed rarely by the larger choral societies.

Elgar: The Light of Life
Mendelssohn: As pants the hart
Verdi: Four Sacred Pieces
Schumann: Requiem (in D-flat Major! This is a tricky piece to make come off, but it is wonderful when it does. Careful handling of the effects and pacing are crucial. Unfortunely, most available recordings show pedestrian performances, in my opinion. Even Sawallisch, with his Munich forces.)
Gounod: Mass of the Sacred Heart (I like it much better than the Solemn Mass)

Or how about half a program of Brahms? Open with the almost unknown Ave Maria for women and orch, followed by the Alto Rhapsody, with the sublime writing for male chorus and the soloist. Close with the Song of Destiny.
DrewE
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by DrewE »

Tchaikovsky's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op 41, might be a possibility. It also might not work out quite so well; I'm having a bit of a hard time guessing. The recording I have of it is lovely, but it's of a choir that appears (in the thumbnail picture) to be ca. 60 persons recorded in a very acoustically live cathedral; I sort of figure that a larger choir in a less live environment might also work pretty well. Running time is around 50-60 minutes, scored I believe in the usual four parts.
MandyShaw
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by MandyShaw »

When I was at school we did a concert every couple of years involving the choirs of all the secondary schools in the area. The one that's really stuck in my mind was Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle. I'm not in a position to judge how musically successful it was, and it's too long ago to ask anyone who might have been in the audience! But I have fond memories of it. (The next time I performed it, about five years later, was with a choir of about 12 people, as I recall!)
Cdalitz
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by Cdalitz »

When I was at school we did a concert every couple of years involving the choirs of all the secondary schools in the area. The one that's really stuck in my mind was Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle.
I remember having sung the piece several years ago and must admit that I consider it an ugly and disgusting mass setting. Your mileage may vary, but beware that a religious person might be offended by this music: it is of an operatic style which put it on the "black list" of music disapproved for use in liturgy.

Leaving personal taste aside, IIRC the tenors have to sing a high g' for several pages, so that singing this piece is not even fun for someone who likes secular opera music. Moreover, it is accompanied by only a piano and a harmonium (sic!), which might be a bit thin for a choir of medium village size.

Chris
MandyShaw
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by MandyShaw »

I suppose we must have had some sort of orchestral arrangement of the accompaniment, though I can remember no details ... I must admit I didn't realise it gave the tenors such a hard time. You're absolutely right about its liturgical unsuitability, of course; I have no knowledge of the religious context (if any) of the proposed concert. It just popped into my head when 'massive choirs' were mentioned.
dickjones1
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Re: massive works - recommendations

Post by dickjones1 »

I guess you have thought of all the usual suspects like Messiah, Verdi Requiem but have you considered Karl Jenkins' Armed Man which, like the other two mentioned, went down well in the Albert Hall with The Really Big Chorus of 1000's of voices - also in the Croydon Fairfield with about 200. Another favourite of mine is the Puccini Messa di Gloria. Hope this helps - there is a huge repertoire to chose from. Why not try asking members of the choir for their suggestions.
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