71’51 CD booklet
Alec Roth’s new cantata is a celebration of times and seasons, and a joy to hear. Also included are new settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis and of George Herbert’s Antiphon ‘Praised be the God of love’.
Alec Roth writes… “A Time to Dance was first performed in Sherborne Abbey on 9 June 2012 by Ex Cathedra, conducted by Jeffrey Skidmore. The work was commissioned to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer Music Society of Dorset, founded by its President and Artistic Director, Dione Digby, in 1963. The brief was to provide a large-scale, celebratory work, reflecting the passage of time and fifty years of music-making. The seed that set my creative juices flowing was the text which Lady Digby suggested as a possible starting point—the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes which I have used for the opening Processional. This lovely, profoundly human text provided the four key themes which permeate the whole work: times; seasons; love; dance..”
“Composer Alec Roth may be UK-based and of Irish/German descent, but it’s America that provides the musical heritage for his 2012 cantata A Time to Dance, recorded here for the first time by Ex Cathedra. The music is richly melodic, twitching with rhythmic energy, with wide harmonic vistas conjured up by even more widely spaced modal harmonies; Copland lies on the horizon of so much of its vibrant directness, shaded by the occasional bluesy nod to Gershwin and even Sondheim.
“Roth’s long relationship with Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra has already yielded the exceptional Shared Ground (Signum, 2011), and their follow-up collaboration is even stronger. A Time to Dance is an hour-long cantata for a quartet of SATB soloists, choir and orchestra (here a Baroque band, inspired by the work’s original commission as a companion piece for Bach’s Magnificat), with all the makings of a modern classic—a work you’d want to perform and, crucially, perform again.
“Divided into four sections—‘Spring Morning’, ‘Summer Noon’, ‘Autumn Evening’ and ‘Winter Night’—the work’s collage of texts draws with catholic breadth from the likes of Herrick, Blake, Edward Thomas and the Book of Common Prayer. Minutely sensitive to the poetry, Roth binds them into a single coherent musical narrative while retaining the original character of each, whether the fleet-footed energy of Rosetti’s ‘Dancing on the hill-tops’ or the meditative stillness of Thomas’s ‘Lights out’.
“A strong quartet of soloists move through the seasons: Grace Davidson is bright, spring soprano, Samuel Boden sensuous, Brittenish summer; Matthew Venner’s countertenor is autumn and bass Greg Skidmore completes the year as winter. All come together with the massed forces of Ex Cathedra (on typically fine form) for a stately Globe-style jig, bringing this immensely attractive cycle to its exuberant close.
“Choral societies are hungry beasts and there are only so many Rutter Glorias they can consume. With A Time to Dance Roth has provided a serious alternative—a contemporary work of real character and energy.
“It’s the sheer quality of Alec Roth’s invention that really makes its mark in this recording. Previous encounters with his vocal music have made it clear to me that this is a composer who writes imaginatively and with great understanding for the human voice. A Time to Dance confirms that impression in spades. Just as impressive is the ear-tickling way he writes for the instruments in this score. The music is strongly melodic, accessible, very pleasingly harmonised and fits the selected texts like a glove…
“I hope this fine recording will bring it to the attention of a wider public, as it deserves. I hope also that other choirs will take it up, especially as it can be performed on modern instruments.”
(Read the rest of the review at www.musicweb-international.com – Recording of the Month)
“Mit Bach teilt Alec Roth auch das Tänzerische, das dieses Werk von der ersten bis zur letzten Minute prägt, auch wenn es zwischendurch immer wieder poetische und reflektive, ja sogar berührend innerliche Passagen gibt. Genau so sehr wie an Bach erinnert das Stück aber auch an Gospel-Rhythmen, mitunter sogar an Big Band-Klang und Musical. Seiner Phantasie hat Roth da keinerlei Grenzen gesetzt und er tut es ebenso geschmackvoll wie geistreich, klar dezidiert, dem Zuhörer eine gefällige, unmittelbar eindringliche und verständliche Musik vorzusetzen. An schönen Melodien fehlt es nicht in dieser meistens lichtvollen und positiv getunten Musik.” (Rest more at www.pizzicato.lu)