Stephen Paulus: Far in the Heavens

The choral works on this release were all composed or revised within the last four years of Stephen Paulus’ life. Their originality, quality, and expressiveness show just how great a loss the classical music world suffered with Paulus’ early death.

“Prayers and Remembrance” is the largest work on the album, written to commemorate 9/11. According to Paulus, it was written to be “spiritual without being religious.” In that, he was successful. The work is elegiac and uplifting, without referencing the music of any faith tradition. The smoothly flowing melodic lines are supported with lush harmonies and deft orchestration. Soprano Kathryn Mueller is a particular standout in the third movement, making the seemingly simple melody a song from the heart.

Shorter choral works make up the rest of the album, but don’t consider them mere filler. “Nunc dimittis” (rev. 2013) is an effective setting of the text — an excellent example of Paulus at his best. “The Incomprehensible,” “I Have Called You by Name” “Little Elegy” and “When Music Sounds” all demonstrate why Paulus was considered one of America’s premier choral composers.

The Concord of Voices & Orchestra, directed by Eric Holtan perform these works beautifully. The chorus has a good blend, and the performances — as to be expected from Reference — are impeccably recorded.

Stephen Paulus: Far in the Heavens
True Concord Voices & Orchestra; Eric Holtan, conductor
Reference Recordings FR-716

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