Gordon Getty (b.1933):
Joan and the Bells, Cantata for Soprano Baritone, Chorus & Orchestra (1998)
Lisa Delan, soprano; Vladimir Chernov, baritone; Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, Stockholm
Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953):
Romeo and Juliet, Suite #2, Op 64-ter (1936)
Alexander Vedernikov, conductor
Soprano Lisa Delan evocatively recreates the role of Joan in a moving account that goes some way to prove you can't beat good old fashioned burning at the stake to get the adrenalin flowing.
...a highly effective work, well written for the voices, ably orchestrated, thematically coherent, dramatically persuasive. The arresting, driving opening bars hurl us into the final moments of the trial of Joan of Arc... Joan and the Bells is a fully engaging cantata, with its shimmering orchestration and vocal lines that are actually singable... Getty is trained to do what he does well. The compelling performance features an appropriately girlish Lisa Delan in the soprano part, with firm baritone Vladimir Chernov not letting his Russian accent get in the way of the English text, the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir reminding us how effortlessly fine Swedish choirs can be, and Alexander Vedernikov and the Russian National Orchestra providing dynamic support. Joan and the Bells is a compelling cantata that gets better with each audition. Set aside your various prejudices, and buy this disc for the Getty.
Gordon Getty's Joan and the Bells, dealing as it does with the passion of Joan of Arc, has stirring subject matter to begin with, and the composer
gives it a compelling treatment.... Lisa Delan gives a tender portrait of the maid in her cell, repentant for having forsaken her spiritual "voices"
at the time of her trial. Vladimir Chernov is effective as Cauchon, her judge... Getty's choral and orchestral writing are rich and vivid, especially in the final scene, in which the voices of the crowd relay to us a vision of Joan's apotheosis and the final glorious triumph of her cause.
Gordon Getty's cantata Joan and the Bells is a distinctive and musically appealing version of the Joan of Arc story, beginning with her trial for heresy and witchcraft, and building to a startling climax as she faces death at the stake... Joan and the Bells, in three sections, thrusts us right into the trial with a driving, arresting beginning in triplet time. Cauchon, her prosecutor, is sung by Vladimir Chernov...with menace and theatrical power. The second section, an eight-minute monologue for Joan... displays thematic unity and a consistent melodiousness. [Joan and the Bells] is dramatically assured, structurally sound, and likable without being obvious...eminently recommendable.
Gordon Getty has produced one of the most dramatic, exciting and tautly constructed tone poems it has been my pleasure to hear for a long time. The forces are large as befits the subject and the listener is gathered up and swept into the turmoil of Joan's final trial and execution for which Getty emphasises her inner tension and the pride of her faith in her voices, his scoring for chorus particularly effective in the final pages when the Saints urge Joan's spirit to join them. Joan's soliloquy as she awaits her execution is dramatically and movingly sung by Lisa Delan, whom I would like to hear on the opera stage, while Vladimir Chernov provides a sinister Prosecutor. The Russian National Orchestra under Alexander Vedernikov are on good form and project Getty's virile score with enthusiasm. The recording quality is excellent.
This [CD] was quite a surprise to me... the words of the two excellent soloists and chorus [are] intelligible and very moving. The climax of the work comes when [Joan of Arc] is burned at the stake and in spite of the court having silenced any churchbells, loud bells from heaven are heard. The recording was made at a live concert in France and this section benefits tremendously from the realistic envelopment of the tumultous pealing bells, which has a vertical dimension to it even though height channels are not being used. Talk about a big finish!
A powerful work given a refreshingly unpretentious performance.
International Record Review
Getty’s music is fluent and well orchestrated, and there are some very effective moments. It is, in fact, a skillfully written, very traditional kind of oratorio. [It] is beautifully sung by Lisa Delan, and both the baritone, Vladimir Chernov, and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir also deserve the highest praise... Vedernikov is clearly a man to watch: he knows exactly how to pace the music and maintain the tension, and to draw every possible shade of colour from the orchestra, which is magnificently recorded.
Conductor Alexander Vedernikov and the Russian National Orchestra give [a] vivid account of ...Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2... [We] have nothing but praise for the romantic exultation that Vedernikov captures in the emotional high point of the score, "Romeo and Juliet before Parting." In the last movement, "Romeo at Juliet's Tomb," the shock waves of grief and sorrow seem almost palpable, and the quotation of the love theme from earlier in the ballet comes across very well. Sonically, as well as in terms of performance, this is one of the best new offerings I have heard in SACD format. Even with all the great Romeo and Juliets we have heard since the beginning of the stereo era, this one really merits a hearing.
Getty's cantata offers compelling music in a shapely and attractive format. It's certainly worth hearing... The two outer movements depict Joan's judgment and martyrdom (leading to a very powerful closing "transfiguration"), while the lovely central picture of the heroine making her peace with God offers arguably the most compelling music of all--by degrees intimate and moving. The performance recorded here features the excellent Eric Ericson Chamber Choir... Soprano Lisa Delan has the right instincts for the title role as well as a sweetly innocent timbre... As Joan's principal accuser, baritone Vladimir Chernov sounds aptly weighty and judgmental... Alexander Vedernikov and the Russian National Orchestra give [a] very committed performance of the score, and certainly Gordon Getty's use of traditional harmony and his Romantic approach plays to the strengths of all concerned.
San Francisco Classical Voice
Getty's style in Joan and the Bells is not unlike Britten's, but the clarity and thoughtful pacing makes it his own, an effective and pleasing work. [The music] is effective, nicely varied and scored [and] evocative... Delan sang Joan handsomely, her soprano as true and steady as the character would want... Chernov's singing is firm and strong.
... a rising dramatic tension, a brilliant sonic resolution and a genuine emotional impact... Soprano Lisa Delan sings beautifully and with absorbing drama.