The Latvian Radio Choir has earned an enviable reputation among the virtuoso choirs today. The album ‘Mythes Étoliés’ contains both exiting new music from the Scandinavian/Baltic area and modern classics for a cappella choir.
The mythes of stars
The main work on the recording is Thoresen’s ‘Mythes Étoilés’, a large-scale, three-movement setting of a poem by Giacinto Scelsi, better known as one of the original composers of the 20thcentury. In his setting of Scelsi’s deeply Symbolist poem, Thoresen has surely created a major utterance for unaccompanied voices, a mastepiece of similar importance to Olivier Messiaen’s Cinq Rechants or Iannis Xenakis’s Nuits. A modern classic of advanced choral repertoire follows on the recording: György Ligeti’s ‘Lux Aeterna’, well known through its appearance in Kubrick’s ‘2001 – a space odyssey’.
Rituals of a primeval past
Latvian composer Mārtiņš Viļums’ choral work ‘gāwēk-dādkard’ (‘On the conflict waged with the primeval ox’) was inspired by the cosmological texts of the Bundahishn, relating to how life was created out of a primeval ox. This is a highly dramatic piece that seems to evoke the rituals of a remote primeval past. Swedish composer Anders Hillborg’s minimalist choral piece ‘Mouyayoum’ is scored for 16-part mixed choir, and has attained the status of a modern classic. Described as ‘cosmic trance’ music, it is a wordless – but vowel-full – exploration of vocal texture.
Beauty and radiance
During the last six years of his life John Cage wrote a large number of so-called ‘number pieces’. The effect of the beautiful and indeed radiant ‘Four2’ is of sustained, extremely long-held sound-continuums to which voices are added or subtracted, creating vibrant overtones and mysterious inner motion within the sounds. The works of Estian composer Toivo Tulev also possess a mystical, incantatory dimension. Hi strives to balance the expressionistic aspects of contemporary music with the sense of the eternal to be discovered in sacred music, as we hear it in his ‘Tanto Gentile’.