Bayerischen Staatsopernchor - Choir
Recorded at a performance in Carnegie Hall, New York on March 18th, 1990.
In that great getting up mornine; Sinner, please don't let this harvest passb; Over my head/Lil' David'; Oh, what a beautiful city"; Lord, how come me here"; I believe I'll go back home/Lordy, won't You help me"; Ride on, King Jesus"; Swing low, sweet chariot/Ride up in the chariot"; You can tell the worldb; Scandalize my name"; Great day"; Oh, glory"; Calvary/They crucified my Lordb; Talk about a child"; Gospel train"; My God is so high"; There is a balm in Gilead"; He's got the whole world in His hand".
Those who saw the television relay last Christmas of this live Carnegie Hall concert-soon to be available in VHS Video and Laserdisc formats- will already know that, as the very names might suggest, it was a larger-than-life event. Traditionalists may resist such inflation of what is at root a simple, essentially heartfelt folk genre, but as the American critic, Will Crutchfield says in the stout defence of "a living concert tradition" contained in the accompanying notes, "In the hands of artists like these, the Spiritual tradition is not only alive and flourishing but enjoying a kind of Golden Age".
Not only Jessye Norman-by any reckoning one of the great musical personalities of the age- but equally Kathleen Battle sail through their larger-than-life production with an ease, an intensity and most remarkably a sparkling sense of humour, which has you embraced as an individual. The setting may be big, but the communication is personal and direct. The most surprising and most memorable of all the items, illustrating that perfectly, is Scandalize my name, an overtly comic duet on a serious theme, with piano accompaniment alone, very like a cabaret number. The singers' timing is delicious, pointing their witty attempts to upstage each other. As Crutchfield says, "It is a tour de force of pastiche, charisma, camp and virtuosity".
Not everyone will like all the concert arrangements, ranging between flute and harp alone for Kathleen Battle's first solo number linking Over my head and Lir David, to full orchestra with chorus. Lil' David brings the first of the open laughs, when an elaborate harp cadenza is capped by Battle's beautifully timed line, "Lil' David, play on that harp!". As one would expect in what is openly intended as a 'crossover' event, the concert arrangements are generally glossy, but only in another of the composite numbers, Calvary and They crucified my Lord, do I find the result tastelessly overdone. The idea of the chorus singing Calvary as a kind of sub-text for Jessye Norman in They crucified my Lord, is good, but the great thwacks on tam-tam, timpani and bass-drum simply overdo the sound effects, hardly needed on such a scale with such heartfelt singing.
As the list of items suggests, rare Spirituals have been preferred to well-known favourites. After the first big ensemble item, In that great getting up morning, Jessye Norman's gloriously weighty and intense singing in Sinner, please don't let this harvest pass sets the pattern for a sequence that could hardly range wider, with Kathleen Battle's sparkle and vigour regularly providing an extra effervescence. I cannot imagine there has ever been a concert of Spirituals quite like it. The live recording, not always ideally balanced, has all the presence one could want.
-E.G. (All Music Guide)