Archive for gabriel jackson

Best of 2009

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Lots to chose from and most of it from living composers who create outside the tedious and ugly world of the conservatory. Proving that the future of music is really in the hands of those who care about originality and beauty rather than residing in the clammy claws of the sterile academics.

CD of the Year

Phil Kline: John the Revelator
Lionheart; Ethel
(Cantaloupe Music)
I can’t say enough about John the Revelator. Phil Kline has created a work whose stark beauty connects on so many levels. You’d have to be made of stone not to feel this one.

John Adams: Dr. Atomic Symphony
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
David Robertson, conductor
A strange and beautiful world of orchestral color and rampaging rhythms.

Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Big-boned, heroic Brahms that rivals my favorite recordings by Otto Klemperer and Istvan Kertesz. Speaking of Kertesz, I wish the corporate troglodytes at Universal would get a clue and reissue his Decca recordings.

Michael Daugherty: Fire and Blood
Ida Kavafian, violin; The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Jarvi, conductor
Daugherty’s Fire and Blood concerto has balls and Kavafian delivers a brilliantly muscular performance. Daugherty’s music is disliked by the pasty-faced academics–“it’s glib and filled with cheap effects”–they shriek. All the more reason to love his music. Check out the recording of his Metropolis Symphony too.

Gabriel Jackson: Not No Faceless Angel
Stephen Layton, director
Jackson grabbed some deserved acclaim with “The Christ Child Sat On Mary’s Lap,” the carol commissioned for the 2009 Festival of Lessons and Carols at Kings College, Cambridge. This sublime CD is an ideal introduction to his music.

Rued Langgaard: Messis
Flemming Dreisig, organ
An organ work that clocks in at over 2 hours? Yes please! Langgaard’s music is hyper-Romantic and Dreisig is a superb organist. It’s been quite a Langgaard year with Dacapo releasing a boxed set of the quirky Dane’s complete symphonies.

James Macmillan: St. John Passion
Christopher Maltman, baritone
London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor
(LSO Live)
A deeply moving and piercingly dramatic telling of the Passion story. A gorgeous performance led by the greatest living conductor.

Mahler Symphony No. 4
Miah Persson, soprano
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Fischer’s excellent Mahler cycle hits a high point.

Felix Mendelssohn: Complete Organ Sonatas
William Whitehead, organ
Church organists love these little gems but they are not especially well-know outside the organ loft. Whitehead plays a marvelous old instrument on this terrific recording.

Olivier Messiaen: Saint Francois d’Assise
Rodney Gilfry, baritione; Camilla Tilling, soprano; Hubert Delamboye, tenor
Netherlands Opera Chorus, Hague Philharmonic Orchestra
Ingo Metzmacher, conductor
(Opus Arte)
Pierre Audi’s hypnotic staging is remarkable and Messiaen’s score will probably never be better-served. I think they will be serving frozen margaritas in hell before this opera is ever staged in New York, so grab this DVD and prepare to be overwhelmed.

A video treat

I’m deeply in love with soprano Miah Persson, the soloist on Fischer’s Mahler 4th. Here she is singing “Come scoglio” from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.

Happy 2010! I hope…

I hated the job but loved the music

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

One of the worst jobs I ever had led me to some of the greatest music I ever heard. I worked for a notable publisher affiliated with a revered English university whose music division specialized in choral music. The publisher was over 600 years old and most of their business practices dated from about the same period. Petty factions stabbed at each other like Yorkists and Lancastrians and none of those involved were as entertaining as Richard III. What did I gain from my four year term with the company? The best thing was being introduced to the music of Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988), William Mathias (1934-1992) and Gabriel Jackson (b. 1962).

If you worship in an Anglican church with a good music program you might know Leighton and Mathias’s choral music. Leighton’s Easter Sequence is frequently performed and Mathias’s “A Babe is Born” pops up on many Christmas Lessons and Carols services. Both composers excelled in every genre. Leighton’s Suite ‘Veris Gratia’ for oboe, cello and strings is a neglected masterpiece whose absence from the concert hall is criminal. He also left a great collection of solo instrumental music and superb choral works. Outside of the church, Mathias has suffered the same neglect. He is best remembered for his sacred choral music but also wrote three excellent symphonies, an excellent Harp Concerto and some of the finest organ music of his day.

Jackson is one of the most exciting voices of our day. His choral music embraces the great Anglican tradition but there are also whispers of Stravinsky, Poulenc and Tavener that make for a very compelling sound. Jackson says, “I try to write music that is clean and clear in line, texture and structure; my pieces are made of simple melodies, chords, drones and ostinatos. They are not about conflict and resolution; even when animated, they are essentially contemplative. I like repetition and ‘ritualized’ structures. Much of my work reflects an interest in Medieval techniques and ideas—I am particularly drawn to the ecstatic, panconsonant music of the early Tudor period. For me, music is the most powerful medium for transcendence, and in several pieces I have attempted a spiritual response to the great technological miracle of our time—powered flight.”

The choral music of these three composers can be heard on three must-have new recordings on the Hyperion Records label:



Kenneth Leighton
The World’s Desire
Wells Cathedral Choir
Matthew Owens, conductor
Hyperion CDA67641


One of England’s very best cathedral choirs in a program that includes three premiere recordings.




William Mathias
Choral Music
Wells Cathedral Choir
Matthew Owens, conductor
Hyperion CDA67740



Another winner from the Wells Cathedral Choir, includes the premiere recording of “In Excelsis Gloria.”




Gabriel Jackson
Not no Faceless Angel
Stephen Layton, conductor
Hyperion CDA67708



Polyphony, the finest choir on the scene, sing Jackson’s mesmerizing music. Jump right to the third track, “Cecilia Virgo” and you will understand why there is such a buzz about Jackson.



The “What I Gained From My Lousy Job” Playlist


Suite ‘Veris Gratia’ [Chandos]

Organ Concerto [Chandos]

Complete Organ Music [Priory]



Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 [Nimbus]

Lux Aeterna [Chandos]

Organ Music [Nimbus]



Sacred Choral Music [Delphian]