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Hyperion Records

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About 2500 Tigers (2008) by Charlie Baird (b1955)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67747
Recording details: August 2008
Ely Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: February 2010
Total duration: 28 minutes 57 seconds

'A fascinating collection of choral works … centring on a Mass setting by Latvian Uģis Prauliņš … probably the single most impressive moment in the work is the end of the Credo, whose increasing waves of spoken affirmation of faith are haloed by bell-like choral roulades … Einfelde's music is altogether more introverted, darker than that of Prauliņš but beautifully crafted and jewel-like … [Angelis suis Dominis and Pater noster by Miškinis] are works of absolutely luminous beauty' (Gramophone)

'The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge enjoys the urgent heartbeat of this music … Missa Rigensis contains many wonders, including a buoyant Gloria which vanishes magically into the long acoustic perspectives of the Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral, where this disc was most sensitively produced and engineered  … Stephen Layton conducts this music with all the rigour, colour and craft characteristic of his work' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Stephen Layton conducts vital and immaculate performances. These works must be quite taxing and they’re not always as simple or as straightforward as they may sound. The singing is a pure joy from first to last. The recording lends an appropriately reverberant aura to the music. This splendid release perfectly complements Hyperion’s disc devoted to Dubra’s choral music, enthusiastically reviewed here a few months ago (Hail, Queen of Heaven). This disc will appeal strongly to all lovers of imaginative choral music, but others—I am sure—will find much to relish' (MusicWeb International)

'Soaring melodies, folklike tunes, drones with religious gravity, and stylized speech are all encompassed by these works, the biggest among them being Uģis Prauliņš' Missa Rigensis—one of the most original and personal settings of the Mass text imaginable. Best of all, this is a disc to live with: There's much to enjoy on first hearing, but all the pieces have dramatic new revelations on subsequent encounters' (The Philadelphia Inquirer, USA)

Missa Rigensis
2002; for the Riga Cathedral Boys' Choir and first performed there at Easter 2003
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Missa Rigensis by Ugis Praulinš was written for the great Riga Dom Boys’ Choir and premiered at Easter 2003 in the vast acoustic of Riga’s medieval cathedral. As a child Praulinš was for many years a member of the choir (then known as the Choir of the Emils Darzinš Music School) where his contemporaries included two leading lights of Latvian choral music, the conductors Martinš Klišans and Maris Sirmais. Alongside his formal studies in composition at the Music Academy in Riga Praulinš also played in rock bands in the 1970s and 1980s; for several years he was a sound engineer at Latvian Radio where he undertook pioneering work with folk music, and since then his career has embraced music for film and television, large-scale ‘crossover’ pieces, a full-length ballet and a substantial body of concert music. These various facets of the composer’s practice all feed into the Mass, generating an integrated musical language that is direct and immediate, referential yet completely personal. Praulinš’s intention was to compose a work in the spirit of the great Renaissance Masses, ‘without overwhelming force or volume’, and the result is a piece equally suited to concert or liturgical performance. There is a freshness of response to these age-old words at every turn, yet as much as it is a meticulous and imaginative setting of the text, Missa Rigensis is also a piece about the choral medium itself, and about other settings of the rite.

The diversity and resourcefulness of vocal scoring throughout are striking. The declamatory supplication of the Kyrie is both eternal and modern in its added-note richness, while the sotto voce keening that ends the movement is shockingly potent. The dancing, glistening opening of the Gloria owes as much to rock music in its syncopated canonic build-up as it does to any older polyphonic tradition, the dramatic antiphonal exchanges at ‘Domine Deus’ have an ancient, hieratic quality and the return of a more outgoing music at ‘Quoniam tu solus’ reaches a climax of near-hysterical joy before bell-tone pedal notes herald a melismatic series of Amens.

The pulsing clusters that open the Credo are a powerful symbol of the urgency of belief. A mosaic of varied textures follows—joyful quasi-Baroque roulades, chant-inflected canons over open-fifth drones (a haunting moment of stasis), anguished overlapping chromatic sighs at ‘passus est’; and the pointillist, off-beat figure at ‘Crucifixus’ is both a graphic representation of the driving-in of nails and at the same time built into a groove-based ostinato. The movement ends with a soaring pan-consonant choral carillon, repeated over and over again, while another group of voices whispers the final lines of the text with ever-increasing fervour. The brief Sanctus begins with an awed hush and concludes with exultant ‘swung’ Hosannas and a final chord that is deliciously unexpected. The Agnus Dei achieves no easy resolution, the uncertainty of its final bars unwinding into a Post-Communion where long-breathed vocalise underpins an ad lib spoken prayer (in this instance the ‘Actus caritatis’). The effect is both theatrical and numinous, as the public face of the music slowly dissolves into inwardness and deep repose.

‘Music and love explain everything’, says Ugis Praulinš, with characteristic generosity and optimism.

from notes by Gabriel Jackson © 2010

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