The English composer, John Tavener (1944 – 2013), converted to Orthodoxy at the age of thirty-three. This decisive turning point in his life projected substantially into his choral output blending inspiration by both Western and Eastern European musical traditions. The result of this duality is, apart from an inimitably original sonic makeup, also a highly individual strain of emotionality occasionally evoking mystical connotations. The composition Svyati, built on a dialogue between chorus and cello, sets the words of an Eastern Orthodox prayer for the dead (sung during Mass at the time of the coffin being carried out of the church and towards the grave, accompanied by the bereaved bearing lit candles). Flowing in a calm stream, Tavener´s music progresses to a finale where it dies down to absolute silence, as if to witness the gate of eternity opening.
The Italian Impressionist composer, Ottorino Respighi (1879 – 1936), earned fame primarily for his instrumental works. While his choral output is sparse, the Lauda per la Natività del Signore (“Hymn of Praise for the Birth of the Lord”) is definitely an extraordinary composition. It narrates the story of the Nativity as conveyed alternately by the shepherds, angels, and the Virgin Mary, with the cantata as a whole being structured in pastoral style. Its message of peaceful bliss is still enhanced by a quasi-historical orchestration dominated by woodwind instruments, as well as by copious reminiscences of Baroque dance forms, Renaissance madrigals and plainchant. This is an outstandingly original piece of music exuding the spirit of Mediterranean exoticism.
Jan Dušek (b. 1985) ranks among the most gifted Czech composers of the young generation. His music, standing out for originality and daring, never fails to achieve brilliant poitedness. Notwithstanding its sophistication, it remains unfailingly accessible and audience-friendly. The Prague Philharmonic Choir has previously successfully premiered his Four Songs of Solomon. This time out it will present the world premiere of his new Christmas composition, commissioned by the PPC.
Author: Lukáš Vasilek