Sarah Olivia | United States | 11/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The beautiful voice of Barbara Hendricks and these outstanding Sacred Songs make a great combination. I bought this CD about a decade ago and am still entranced by Mendelssohn's dramatic "Hear My Prayer" and Bernstein's powerful "Kaddish." "Hear My Prayer" is based upon Psalm 55, the very same psalm that Merton Densher quotes in Henry James' The Wings of the Dove (and thus gives the book its title).
Barbara Hendricks is not only a great singer, but quite the actress. "Hear My Prayer" reminds me a mini-vocal drama not unlike Mahler's song cycles and choral symphonies. You feel the soprano's urgency as she sings about her confusion ("perplexed and bewildered...") her despair, "my heart is sorely pained, my soul with deathly terror is oppressed, trembling and fearfulness upon me fall, with horror overwhelmed..."), her supplication ("Thyself from my petition do not hide...O God hear my prayer") and her hope for resolution/escape, ("O for the wings of a dove, far away would I rove...in the wilderness build me a nest and remain there forever at rest"). Several states of mind and mood are explored within one 11-minute song. It takes quite the singing actress to pull this off, and Barbara Hendricks gives an exquisite rendition. The organ and chorus support this intense performance. (How I envy Hendrick's vocal control and skillful tapering of dynamics! In my next life, I will beg God to give me a voice like this! :-)
The Bernstein "Kaddish 2" is just as remarkable in its emotional intensity. In Jewish culture, a Kaddish is a prayer recited by mourners after the death of a close relative.
This CD features many popular sacred songs, including Schubert's "Ave Maria," Bach/Gounod's "Ave Maria," and Franck's "Panis Angelicus." "Amazing Grace," one of the the world's most popular sacred songs, is also on this album. This song will always have a special place in my heart. I learned about the song's history while listening to a personal growth audiobook, and I always get choked up whenever I repeat the story. The song's composer was on a slave ship bound for the Americas when it suddenly occurred to him how wrong he and the other men were to participate in slave trading--he clearly saw that the slaves were in fact equal human beings with rights and feelings, and that this was an unacceptable way to treat them. He completely regretted what he had been doing and penned the lyrics to this beautiful song. I also learned from listening to Wayne Dyer that Eastern religions call instant enlightenment "satori." It seems that the creator of one of the world's most beautiful sacred songs experienced a type of satori that we can all benefit from."