A striking, rarely performed selection of a cappella music by Rautavaara, Wennäkoski, and Livorsi by the Helsinki Chamber Choir. An outstanding recording, highly recommended for its mystical tones and sheer sound beauty.
In the Missa a cappella Rautavaara avoids monotony through the constant variation of the musical texture. The counterpoint – or superimposition – of polyphonic lines and rhythmic animation of sonorous harmonic blocks is a recurring feature in Rautavaara’s music. [Missa a cappella is] a large-scale work that reflects the textural diversity of Rautavaara’s expression. Missa a cappellawas first performed on November 25th 2011 at Jacobikerk, Utrecht, by the Netherlands Radio Choir under Celso Antunes.
Our Joyful’st Feast came into being only a few years earlier when the Helsinki Chamber Choir and Nils Schweckendiek commissioned a choral work to be performed at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Christmas concert.
Word play, the compositional potential inherent in the different meanings of words, sounds made possible by their respective vowels and consonants, their rhythm, context and content, are all afforded fresh examination in Ommel by the Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski (b. 1970). Lotta Wennäkoski is known for her often playful and lyrical compositions, and Ommel is no exception. Commissioned by the Helsinki Chamber Choir, the work is based on a simple premise: the same tanka poem by Abe no Iratsume, the 8th-century Japanese poet, is set in five different languages.
Valossa, the final piece on this recording, does finally offer a taste of Finnish. The title means ‘In the light’, and the text is based on several fragments taken from the Bible. From these fragments Wennäkoski has patched together a semi-narrative whole, circling towards its conclusion on words from Ephesians 5:14: “for anything that becomes visible is light”.
Both works, Ommel and Valossa were premiered by the Helsinki Chamber Choir and Nils Schweckendiek on April 5th 2014.
An entirely different mood resonates throughout Lamenti by the Italian composer Paola Livorsi (b. 1967). The title refers to the lamenting, ever-falling musical lines of the ‘lamento’, which in the madrigals and arias of the Renaissance and Baroque expresses an often uncontrolled mourning over the passing of a loved one. Indeed, the composer explains that the work is a meditation on death. Lamenti was commissioned by the Helsinki Chamber Choir, and was first performed in 2012 under James Wood.