Caleb Burhans – Evensong

Young modern-classical composer Caleb Burhans is clearly adept at creating vividly imaginative works but judging by the sounds of Evensong, his willingness to hold nothing back is not without cost.

A combination of droney choral and instrumental works, Evensong is Burhans showcase for why he’s one of the most watched composers of recent years due in part to his borderless vision and creative blending. The record is a hodgepodge of ideas ranging from sweeping movements (“Iceman Stole The Sun”) to more somber works (“Magnificat”).

While none of the choral arrangements are particularly dreary, they are not exactly gravitating either. “Magnificat” and “Nunc dimittis” are both forgettable pieces that while performed well, are too mundane of results for a composer so well known for his audacity to push boundaries of contemporary classical.

That said, Burhans shows his true potential in writing music with his (mostly) pure instrumental compositions that are more often that not simplistic but unorthodox in their shifts and repeating patterns. “Amidst Neptune,” perhaps the darkest note on the album, Burhan is knowledgeable of the dramatic tone he sets to achieve and is perhaps the showing sign of the growing imaginative potential Burhans possesses. “Iceman Stole The Sun” another telling of Burhan’s eventual limitless, creative mindset is a score of rising stings at a furious velocity that while starting off as the record’s best moment, suffers only at the end from  ill-timed and undesirable vocals.

“The Thing Left Unsaid” a minimalist piece with striking repetitious strings, is perhaps the strongest highlight on the record and where Burhans really shines at his best – unpretentious, somewhat underwhelming efforts that on a cumulative whole are deeply impactful.

Evensong, is a well-intended contemporary classical record with a lot of imagination and boldness put into it.  The promises for Burhan and his future are buried within but Evensong is too much of a testing ground where experimentation does not necessarily mean good execution.   Glimpses of spectacular (“Iceman Stole The Sun”) and bonafide prowess (“The Thing Left Unsaid”) are there, but chorally speaking, there could have been a bit more touching up, and in some cases – a lot more “easing up” on the downward tempos.

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