Frank La Rocca's music sounds as though it is simultaneously from two vastly different periods of music history. One foot is planted in contemporary art music, and the other in the ancient world of chant and early European polyphony. This is not new, of course. Mr. La Rocca joins the company of, among others, Gorecki, Pärt, Schnittke and Tavener in combining the music of ancient times with current compositional techniques. He does so in his own unique and effective way.
Frank La Rocca teaches theory and composition at California State University. He was born in 1951 and studied at Yale and the University of California at Berkeley. Mainly comprised of his sacred a cappella choral music, this Enharmonic Records CD focuses on the genre where he has been most active. It also includes the brief Meditation for solo piano and a trio for piano, clarinet and violin titled In This Place, which the composer describes as "a study in tonal minimalism." In this work, only the seven pitches of the Aeolian (natural minor) scale are used. Based upon a plainchant tune, it is a starkly powerful and beautiful piece.
The entire album is made up of music that unfolds slowly and reflectively. Using strong dissonances, the composer is able to underscore the meaning of the sung texts. Sometimes these resolve in the space of a few seconds but often they are suspended for much longer periods, layered over completely different musical ideas. It's an effective expressive technique which makes for a striking resolution of the meaning of the words and the harmony. Our musical sample provides some excellent examples of this.
Performances by the Artists Vocal Ensemble under conductor Jonathan Dimmock are very fine. The group is joined by the radiant soprano of Christine Brandes's in Veni Sancte Spiritus, the only track on the album that was recorded live. I've listened to and enjoyed this album many times and can confidently recommend it to any interested reader.
Professor Emeritus at California State University and artistic director of Composers, Inc., composer Frank La Rocca's music has been described as possessing a "luminous beauty." His catalog includes works in nearly all genres, with a special emphasis on a cappella sacred choral works and this recording offers some of his best known music from that genre.
Frank La Rocca (born 1951 in New Jersey) was educated at Yale (B.A. 1973, cum laude) and the University of California at Berkeley (M.A. 1976, Ph.D 1981 in Music). His early experiences in music ranged from the study of classical piano to playing electric keyboards in a variety of rock and blues bands. He began composing at age 14 and first undertook formal studies in composition and theory while at Yale.
Artists’ Vocal Ensemble is very proud to be on the cutting edge of a paradigm shift regarding the art of performance. Moving in the direction of multicultural collaboration, leadership training, and international conflict resolution, AVE will be setting the tone for how music will be used in the new millennium.
Noted for her radiant, crystalline voice and superb musicianship, soprano Christine Brandes brings her committed artistry to repertoire ranging from the 17th century to newly composed works and enjoys an active career in North America and abroad, performing at many of the world’s most distinguished festivals and concert series in programs spanning from recitals and chamber music to oratorio and opera.
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