If the success of a CD depends on the number of times one throws it into the player, then the 2005 Cedille release Shall I Compare? must be a record of the year, at least for me. This disc features one-of-a-kind songs based on Shakespearean texts, good a cappella singing, and an equally fine recording. The results I find hard to resist.
The Chicago a cappella ensemble consists of nine voices: four women (two sopranos and two mezzos) and five men (two tenors, two baritones, and a bass). They sing like nineteen voices. Such is the case with a good a cappella choir, such as the all-male Chanticleer group that I like so much. But I sometimes find Chanticleer's releases a bit tedious and their recordings often more resonant than I care for. Not so here. The music on the Shall I Compare Thee? album is continuously fascinating, and the recording (by Cedille Records engineer Bill Maylone, whose work I have complimented before) could hardly sound better.
|Chicago a cappella|
The album includes the music of composers Kevin Olson, Martha Sullivan, Jaakko Mantyjarvi, Mattheew Harris, Nils Lindberg, Hakan Parkman, Gyorgy Orban, Juhani Komulainen, Robert Applebaum, and most famous of all, John Rutter. Seven of the twenty-four selections are world-première recordings, while the rest date from fairly recent vintage.
Among my favorites: The opening "Summer Sonnet" and "Blow, blow, thou winter wind"; a jazzy "Take, O Take Those Lips Away"; a truly astonishing "O Weary Night" from A Midsummer Night's Dream with cascading voices; a fairly silly "Witches' Blues" from Macbeth; and several versions of "Shall I Compare Thee." If you enjoy the sound of the unaccompanied human voice, and you enjoy the sound of a matchless recording, not too close, not too distant, not too reverberant nor too dry, then Shall I Compare Thee? is an album to cherish.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: