Christopher Dingle
BBC Music Magazine
October 2023

Credo, this impressive unaccompanied choral collection’s title, suggests an act of faith. It is prompted, though, by the young Slovenian composer Matej Kastelic’s subversively questioning Credo/I believe. Admittedly, this is the other side of the coin to much of what precedes it, notably the fervent devotion of Clytus Gottwald’s choral transcription of Messiaen’s ‘Louange a l’eternite de Jesus’. The words for that, extracted from Messiaen’s Trois Petites Liturgies, point to what conductor Maris Sirmais identifies as the overarching theme of the recording, namely love in its various manifestations.

If framed primarily in the context of belief, this repertoire certainly reflects conductor Maris Sirmais’s faith in the State Choir Latvija for none of it is less than a challenging sing. The Latvians are ravishing in Strauss’s formidable Deutsche Motette, which is essentially a concerto for choir, the composer treating the ensemble in the same way as a vast orchestra. The relatively few previous recordings tend to foreground the soloists, but here they emerge naturally from the choir. After such opulent abundance, the relatively understated, more intimate ardour of Sven-David Sandstrøm’s Four songs of love is a beautifully effective contrast.

Crystal bowls add an unexpected aural halo towards the end of He wishes for the cloths of heaven, a scrumptious Yeats setting by Ambroz Copi judiciously placed before the luminescent opening to Strauss’s Der Abend. Occasional hints of strain from the lower voices aside, the impressively vibrant choral sound and emotional ebb and flow ensure this recording encourages repeated listening.