Saturday, November 04, 2006

27 Choruses For Women

Posted by olvlzl

Even if you don’t think you like a cappella vocal music, you might enjoy the recording of Bela Bartok’s 27Choruses for Womens or Childrens Chorus on the Hungaroton label*. The women of the Schola Hungarica conducted by Laszlo Dobszay sing these pieces just about perfectly. The tempo, time signature and key changes are handled very well. Their ensemble singing of these small masterpieces is as good as you are likely to hear.

The pieces are based on folk poems collected in the late 19th century. It’s hard to believe some of the melodies aren’t the originals but the music is all Bartok’s. His thorough knowledge of folk music is to thank for some of it but his genius as a composer takes over from there. Not reading the Hungarian language much past “szep” and being dependent for the meaning on the English translation included in the accompanying booklet, my impression is that the chorus handles the text with total assurance. The range of emotion and subject matter covered in 45 minutes, is impressive. It goes from humor of several high and medium-low sorts, both lost and fulfilled love, youthful rebellion, deep grief and awed appreciation of nature. Most of all there is the love of wildness and nature. The tone painting of woods, fields and animals, always present in Bartok’s work, is particularly good here. Following the translation you won’t have any trouble figuring out what the original language means in these passages.

Though some of these pieces were intended for children’s voices as well as adults, it’s hard to believe that most of them could be sung by any children’s group on a level much lower than the famous Tapiola Chorus**. Some of them could be sung by amateurs and if they were learned in order of difficulty they would improve any group’s performance. Some of them are for two voices the rest are for three***. Though a choral performance was intended, a chamber group of two sopranos and an alto could sing all of them. Wish we could hear what Anonymous 4 would have done with them.

* Bartok: Twenty-Seven Choruses ; Hungaroton Classic, HCD 31080.
If you like this I would also recommend the other Hungaroton disc of Bartok’s choral music, HDC 31047.

** This is the best children’s chorus I’ve ever heard anywhere. Before them I didn’t think a children’s chorus could sing at the same level as adults.

*** For the printed music, the edition edited by Sabo Miklos , Editio Musica Budapest, Z 1103, ISMN M080011034