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Mythes Etoiles: Lasse Thoresen, Gyorgy Ligeti, John Cage

Thoresen / Latvian Radio Choir / Putnins
Release Date: 11/19/2013 
Label:  Norway Music   Catalog #: 5083   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Lasse ThoresenGyörgy LigetiMartins VilumsJohn Cage,   ... 
Conductor:  Kaspars Putnins
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



MYTHES ÉTOILÉS Kaspars Putni??, cond; Latvian R Ch AURORA 5083 (78:29 Text and Translation)


THORESEN Mythes Étoilés. LIGETI Lux Aeterna. VI?UMS G?w ?k-d?d kard. CAGE Four2. HILLBORG Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Mouyayoum. TULEV Tanto Gentile


It seems to me that one of the requirements for singing in a choir that performs cutting-edge repertoire is to lack any self-consciousness whatsoever. Modern-day choral composers ask performers to moan, whisper, giggle, whistle, yip, shriek, and engage in other “extended vocal techniques,” and if you can’t do these things on demand with a straight face, you might as well go back to singing hymns in your local church choir.


Many of these forms of vocal production, and others, appear during the course of this CD. I found it astonishing, not because it was so outrageous—and some of the music here will shock conservative listeners—but because it is so beautiful. All of the music on this disc is characterized by its unearthly beauty, even if there are some moments of violence, such as in the middle movement (“Ombres et images”) of the title work. (Booklet note writer Malcolm MacDonald aptly compares it to “a demonic vision out of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch.”) Lasse Thoresen’s work is a setting of a poem by another avant-garde composer, Giacinto Scelsi. Solo voices sing or recite Scelsi’s text, while the chorus proper comments on it in a variety of musical or semi-musical ways. The listener feels as if he or she is being made privy to the eternal re-enactment of a ritual that is partly prehistoric and partly in the realm of science fiction.


Speaking of science fiction, György Ligeti gained a lot of recognition when Lux Aeterna was memorably used in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey . The work, for 16 solo voices, was commissioned by Clytus Gottwald for the Schola Cantorum Stuttgart, and their recording of it remains a “must have.” The Latvian Radio Choir takes a somewhat different spin on the work: The original performers made it sound cold, whereas the Latvian Radio Choir’s performance is more human, but no less impressive, in terms of technique.


The title of M?rtin? Vi?ums’s work is Pahlavi (an old Persian dialect) for “On the conflict waged with the primeval ox.” As with Thoresen’s work, this is a dramatic, ritualistic work filled with strange, confrontational effects. It’s like sitting in a cave with one’s primitive ancestors and watching them dance in the light of a blazing fire. In the second part of the work, the fire has burned down to embers, and the ancestors, now in a trance-like state, twitch semi-consciously on the floor of the cave.


Four 2 is one of John Cage’s late “number pieces.” (The work’s title indicates that it is the second work in this series to be composed for four performers—or, in this case, the four parts of an SATB chorus.) Compared to the other works on this CD, this performance of Four 2 is static; the chorus holds chords for a long time, and changes are slow. I wrote “this performance” because Cage gave the performers leeway as to how long to hold their notes, on what vowel to sing them, and so on. Listening to this piece creates an effect similar to that of staring at a painting so long that one starts to perceive that it is moving.


Anders Hillborg’s Mouyayoum may be familiar to those who follow this sort of repertoire, as it has been performed relatively extensively since its appearance almost three decades ago. This is a compulsively throbbing, gently pulsating example of choral minimalism that may have been inspired (or so it seems to me) by Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians , which appeared 10 years earlier. I find it stunning.


This program attains its exquisite, refined endpoint with Tanto Gentile by Estonian composer Toivo Tulev. The text is a sonnet from Dante’s La vita nuova , and the music is a wondrous and haunting blend of Renaissance polyphony with 21st-century harmony. Tulev is in no hurry to reach the final notes, but although the pace is slow, interest never sags, given the beauty of the choral writing.


Although the Latvian Radio Choir is a virtuosic ensemble, they do not throw their virtuosity in the listener’s face, nor does the (relative) perfection of their singing take away from their humanity. Even if the music is not “traditional,” I think there’s something here that will speak to any listener, and invite him or her back for deeper exploration. I just adore this CD, and it certainly will be on my Want List at the end of the year. The slightly echo-y engineering is very atmospheric.


FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

1.
Mythes Étoilés, for chorus by Lasse Thoresen
Conductor:  Kaspars Putnins
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 2012 
Venue:  Iana Baznica, Riga 
Length: 23 Minutes 19 Secs. 
2.
Lux aeterna by György Ligeti
Conductor:  Kaspars Putnins
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1966; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 2012 
Venue:  Iana Baznica, Riga 
Length: 9 Minutes 10 Secs. 
3.
Gaw ek-dad kard, for chorus by Martins Vilums
Conductor:  Kaspars Putnins
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 2012 
Venue:  Iana Baznica, Riga 
Length: 12 Minutes 36 Secs. 
4.
Four 2 by John Cage
Conductor:  Kaspars Putnins
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990; USA 
Date of Recording: 2012 
Venue:  Iana Baznica, Riga 
Length: 7 Minutes 16 Secs. 
5.
Mouyayoum by Anders Hillborg
Conductor:  Kaspars Putnins
Date of Recording: 2012 
Venue:  Iana Baznica, Riga 
Length: 13 Minutes 17 Secs. 
6.
Tanto Gentile, for chorus by Toivo Tulev
Conductor:  Kaspars Putnins
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 2012 
Venue:  Iana Baznica, Riga 
Length: 12 Minutes 3 Secs. 

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