Hyperion Records

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

'Baltic Exchange' (CDA67747)
Baltic Exchange
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67747 
Movement 1: Kyrie eleison
Movement 2a: Gloria
Movement 2b: Domine Deus
Movement 2c: Quoniam tu solus sanctus
Movement 3a: Credo in unum Deum
Movement 3b: Deum de Deo
Movement 3c: Crucifixus
Movement 3d: Credo in Spiritum Sanctum
Movement 4: Sanctus
Movement 5: Agnus Dei

Missa Rigensis
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

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

Details for CDA67747 track 6
Movement 3b: Deum de Deo
Recording date
6 August 2008
Recording venue
Ely Cathedral, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Adrian Peacock
Recording engineer
David Hinitt
Hyperion usage
  1. Baltic Exchange (CDA67747)
    Disc 1 Track 6
    Release date: February 2010
   English   Français   Deutsch