Gramophone TROTTA :  For a Breath of Ecstasy Review

For A Breath of Ecstasy Michael John TrottaThe American composer Michael John Trotta has concentrated on choral music for most of his career. The newest disc devoted to his works offers both secular and sacred fare. Its title, ‘For a Breath of Ecstasy,’ is a line from one of the seven Sara Teasdale poems Trotta has set for choir, oboe and string quartet. The poems come from an extensive Teasdale collection, Love Songs, that won her the first Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1918.

The poems in Trotta’s cycle, commissioned to mark the Teasdale-Pulitzer centennial, are reflections by a woman grateful for the affection she has received. The lyrical verses prompted the composer to summon equally lyrical musical responses, with appealing melodic lines, tender harmonies and a palette of glowing vocal and instrumental colors.

Trotta binds the cycle together with a beguiling theme, first played by the oboe, that leads to all manner of lovely choral lines. The ‘ecstasy’ soars in the fifth song, ‘Spend all you have on loveliness’, a poignant and apt thought, especially for a poet who was called ‘first, last and always a singer’ in an early review of Love Songs. The disc is rounded out by three sacred pieces for unaccompanied choir that show Trotta in his rapturous element, whether the texts are English or Latin.

The Northwestern State University Chamber Choir, from Louisiana, perform all of the works with fine sense of ensemble and words under the direction of Nicholaus B Cummins.