Delos gives us three musical gifts at year’s end

In Soli Deo Gloria, a lovely two-disc set released by Delos perhaps never better than in time for the holiday season, thirty-five selections that include various sonatas and several of the nearly four-dozen chorale preludes (BWV 599-644) contained in the Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book) conceived by J.S. Bach during his tenure as organist and music director at Leipzig’s Thomas Kirche are brought to vibrant life by trumpeter Andrew Balio and organist Bruce Bengtson.

The genius of the composer shines through in these modest, small-scale gems felicitously transcribed by Andrew Balio for the trumpet. The title of the two-CD set comes from Bach’s own words which he wrote at the end of each of his compositions: Soli Deo GloriaOnly for the Glory of God.

The music of Bach as played by Balio and Bengtson transcends earthly bounds and touches and stimulates the brain and the heart of the listener with the composer’s mastery of counterpoint and the soulfulness of his art.

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In another timely release by Delos, the chamber choir Conspirare is alternately joined by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, the Texas Guitar Guartet, and the Austin Guitar Quartet in The Singing Guitar.

The album features several compositions: Nico Muhly’s How Little You Are – a compelling work that tells of the struggles of American pioneer women, Kile Smith’s The Dawn’ Early Light – a reflection on the meaning of our National Anthem by Sarah Winnemuca Hopkins, a 19th century native American Paiute activist, Reena Esmail’s hauntingly beautiful When the Guitar, and Craig Hella Johnson’s The Song That I Came To Sing.

The ensemble work by the unusually combined forces of each of the three guitar quartets and the chamber choir Conspirare yields excellent results in this most charming collection of works by American composers.

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Marcellus in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Hamlet speaks these words: Some sat that ever ‘gainst that season comes/ Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated/The bird of dawning singeth all night long/And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad/The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike/No fairy takes nor witch hath power to charm/So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.

And in So hallow’d the time a release of music by Brian Galante and Stephen Paulus, the Taylor Festival Chorus impeccably sings works by these two American composers that honor the Christmas Season as eloquently as the Bard’s words do. The music of Galante’s five-movement So hallow’d the time and that of the shorter How far is it to Bethlehem? is both melodic, straightforwardly tonal, and honest as it touchingly depicts the wonderment of the birth of Christ.

In Stephen Paulus’ Christmas Dances and in his Pilgrim’s Hymn the mood is celebratory and joyous, with a sound evocative of pastoral, folk melodies.

The titles of Galante’s sections in his So Hallow’d the Time are: Wisdom, Peace, Love, Light and Love. This listener cannot think of sentiments more needed in the troubled time in which we now live.

Rafael de Acha    www.RafaelMusicNotes.com