Monday, March 16, 2009

Mea Culpa

I have a confession to make. I don’t really know everything, I just like to sound as if I do. I have been told that I voice my opinions so strongly that people think I know what I’m talking about, but I usually don’t.
When I say that this choir or that choir is the best what I really mean is that I like them best of the ones I have heard, but I have by no means heard them all. I’m no expert on the subject, just a passionate amateur.

I keep finding music that is new to me and a lot of it is so great that I have to revise my opinions about who is best. Really, though, it isn’t accurate to say that any one group or artist is better than another. All of them are different, and all of them are good. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

Sometimes searching the internet for information is like panning for gold and now and then you find a nugget. I was happy to come across a European site called Festival.

This is the link. Here are boy choirs from across Europe that I have never heard of but their recordings are available in the Festival shop. Each CD has the tracks listed and even has samples. Prices are listed in Euros and the exchange rate right now is good if you live in the U.S. as ten Euros converts to about seven dollars and fifty cents. I ordered two Polski Slowiki CD’s, Dennis and The Best of… to start with.

This year I believe I will concentrate on learning more about these choirs whose music isn’t available from the main music sites.
Some of those groups are Luebecker Knabenkantorei, Les Moineaux Du Val De Marne, Boni Pueri, The Boy’s Choir Glink School, Kapella Khloptchikau, Nidarosdomens Guttekor (I’m not making these names up), Sweschnikor Boy’s Choir of Moscow, the Riga Dome Boy’s Choir and more.
I will post reviews about each new choir I find and, as always, I welcome any comments about these or other groups or soloists.


  1. My tastes and what I listen to changes daily. It all depends on the mood I am in at the time. Today, Libera, tomorrow, The Tolzers :)
    Something else you will descover, is that a choir that was good in 2008 may not be so good in 2009. If a choir's front line of trebles are made up of boys about to loose their voices, then when that happens, there is the chance that those replacing them will not have the power and training that the older boys had. Thus the quality of the choir can suffer until the new front line gains experience. You will find in most cases, the best boy soprano is the one just before his voice change.

  2. Hehe let me confide something here: I have a baccalaureate degree in music and myself 'don't know much of anything' beyond my opinions, either...and my favourites also rotate. The 'academics' in music are, in reality, just people like you and I who had the fortune of passing through a series of experiences (commonly called 'college') but aren't necessarily the final word in anything.

    A great deal rides on what I'm listening to and/or what I'm listening FOR. The Windsbacher Knabenchor, for example, is (imho, of course) probably the greatest of the classical treble choirs on the continent; their stuff is quite simply a miracle of technical precision, beautiful sound, and spot-on technique.

    On the other hand, I've 'grown up' to an extent with Libera, whose sound and aesthetic are 110% different: Libera thrive on texture, rather than melodic line (if that makes sense) and are not even remotely like the WKC...but they're still at the top of their respective game...

    Anon above me mentioned the Tolzers: their cut of Bach's great Mass in B minor is unlike either Libera OR the WKC! It's noisy, raucous, a bit unrefined, and somewhat community-chorus-ish...but hey! That might be just the ticket (I certainly love it to pieces)...

  3. Well when you take boys that also sing German schlager and turn them loose on Bach your going to get noisy, raucous, and a bit unrefined....giggles.

  4. What is it one of the Thomaners said? 'We get up early in the morning to music that's...well...not Bach.'

    No, no seriously: I do love the Tolzers' cut of the Mass...Bach's Sechs Motetten, however, are probably the greatest choral pieces ever written...and I cannot find a disc of them here in the United States :(

  5. Kelsie, you are probably the right one who can answer this question. Libera sings some high notes, especially on the song Sanctus, but the Vienna Boy's Choir goes pretty high too. Who can hit the highest notes that you know of?

  6. Oooh that's a bit difficult to say :D ...Libera have a lion's share of unusually high and agile voices--there's probably not, for example, a Thomas Cully in the VBC (ie, a chorister who can toss off ledger lines above the treble staff with a kind of casual offhandedness).

    But Libera sing music designed specifically to play to their high voices--the VBC are tied more closely to traditional classical repertoire and/or transcriptions and arrangements, none of which are necessarily composed DIRECTLY for the choir and DIRECTLY for its sopranos.

    I guess that's the real difference: Libera are essentially a chorus of first and second sopranos with a handful of they probably have the highest voices. The VBC is a more traditional, Continental, mixed 'knabenchor' that includes a fair share of lower voices.

    Libera are a chorus of soloists, so to speak, while VBC is more of a fully 'classical' ensemble. So with that in mind, I'd personally say Libera have the higher ranges of the two, but mostly because Prizeman's music is very much written expressly for that purpose...

  7. On the discussion about 'the way things sound,' this is the newest recording of Leonard Bernstein's 'MASS'--and it features, singing the boy soprano parts, the Tolzer Knabenchor--with their signature sound:

    'MASS' probably skirts the line for some people (especially Roman Catholics), but it's well worth hearing once--compared to the original cut with Bernstein and a later set put out by one Kent Nagano, this version with the Tolzers is pretty dang good!