Classical Reissue Reviews
NICK PEROS: Motets – The Renaissance Singers/ Richard Cunningham – Phoenix RecordsNICK PEROS: Songs – Heidi Klann, soprano/ Alayne Hall, piano – Phoenix Records
Published on November 2, 2013
NICK PEROS: Motets – The Renaissance Singers/ Richard Cunningham – Phoenix Records PHX 0878, 66:26 ***1/2:
NICK PEROS: Songs – Heidi Klann, soprano/ Alayne Hall, piano – Phoenix Records PHX 1439, 55:05 ****:
Peros is a Canadian composer who started writing classical music exclusively in 1998 after coming from a varied background. His music is generally well-received and easily accessible. But that should not indicate lack of substance, for though Peros’s style may be said, in some instances, to be anachronistic, it is still high quality, well-made, and immediately attractive. These two albums are evidently being offered in re-release, having appeared in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
Peros uses biblical psalms, proverbs, and other scriptures as the basis for his motets, which are two, four, and five-part works of varied harmonic complexity and tone. Though there are some somber moments, as would be expected, this is hardly a morose or depressing experience—Peros knows how to infuse some real joy into the more upbeat psalms, certainly not the measured, harmonically-driven emotional reserve of a composer like Palestrina, though some of these pieces have a surface-level similarity that that master. No—this is no Renaissance imitation but rather a tribute of sorts to a once-great (and popular) genre by demonstrating relevance in today’s music world.
The Renaissance Singers are a fine bunch, very clear in their enunciation, and capable of the sometimes formidable challenges Peros imposes. But the sound is a little metallic and lacks warmth in the upper registers. The project was recorded in Kitchener, Ontario’s St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church so I am inclined to lay the failures at the engineers as opposed to the venue.
Even more impressive however is the recording of the 31 songs. Peros uses a variety of texts of generally tremendous poetry, ranging from Dickinson to Joyce to Emily Bronte to Wordsworth, Housman, Herbert, Blake, Stevenson, and—Peros. The harmonic style is more adventurous than the Motets—Peros has a masterly ability to adjust his needs to the needs of the poetry, not simply setting texts, and his expression and emotion in this music is very high. I don’t really know what he has been doing since these first came out, but this legacy alone—despite the fact that he has composed over 200 works—would guarantee him a place in the English song legacy.
Heidi Klann has a perfect voice for this repertory, adjusting her voice emotively as well as technically according to the demands of the moment. Alayne Hall matches her in expressive playing and note-to-note agility, making for an admirable session of fine music. This is a studio recording but the sound is intimate and resonant.