UĢIS PRAULIŅŠ (b.1957): Mass and Interludes "L'homme armé”. Jānis Pelše (organ), Ars Antiqua Riga; Pēteris Vaickovskis (conductor, vocalist).

Catalogue Number: 01Y039

Label: Skani

Reference: LMIC142

Format: CD

Price: $14.98

Description: Prauliņš is known for his eclectic, genre-blurring approach to composition, encompassing orchestral and chamber concert music, sacred music for choir, glosses on early music, folk, rock, jazz, and electronics. This Mass and Interludes is about as genre-crossing as you can get, which results in a stimulating, unpredictable work, very listenable (it is almost entirely tonal, according to the rules of different musical eras, throughout), that some listeners may find infuriatingly unfocussed in idiom. It has to be said that it is easy to be swept along on its tides of freewheeling extravance and exuberantly unapologetic grandiosity of vision. Much of it is based on the secular song from the Middle Ages, L'homme armé, which was widely used as the basis of numerous Mass settings of the time. Prauliņš work originated in a request from conductor Pēteris Vaickovskis for musical comments (interludes) on Johannes Ockeghem’s (c. 1414–97) Mass L’homme armé. These were subsequently expanded into a full setting of the Ordinary of the Mass with numerous additional liturgical texts interpolated apparently ad libitum (including the first section of the Dies irae Sequence), The work was written for the five-voice vocal ensemble Ars Antiqua Riga, with full organ, sackbuts (rather than modern trombones), and electronic instruments. A good proportion of the piece (perhaps as much as 50%) employs the vocal ensemble according to the conventions of 15th and 16th century polyphony, but even within a movement stylistic juxtapositions which may be thrilling or jarring, depending on your point of view, are not uncommon. Other vocal styles - the kind of things the Swingle Singers were known for - also occur intermittently. The organ has episodes of Glassian minimalism, and plays thunderous dissonant chords in the Dies irae (with the trombones standing in for the last trumpet very effectively), and has several imposing solos in the cathedral organ tradition, but elsewhere it joins the synthesizer in suggesting the keyboards of 1970s popular music (and does the interlude with the title Manzarek M Monk refer to Ray Manzarek of the Doors? And Meredith Monk? No information seems to be forthcoming). The synthesizer opens the first movement, in a kind of "new age" introduction followed by an "authentic" setting of the L'homme armé text, and elsewhere it provides atmospheric soundscapes in what were presumably the original Interludes, or inauthentic but sonorous accompaniments to the voices. The L’homme armé "theme" recurs in various guises throughout the work, providing an element of consistency - for instance in the Kyrie, which continues in the style of Mediæval polyphony; but soon after elements of progressive rock opera, "new spirituality" and other contemporary styles intrude, and any attempt at consistent stylistic description becomes redundant. At the time of the premiere in 2020, Prauliņš mused on his intentions in the work: "L’homme armé – the love and destruction of those involved in war - is a difficult topic. Even today. When it comes to wars waged in other countries, in fact, just a few hours’ flight away, it is our civilization’s responsibility. We cannot simply stop fighting wars with arms in our hands one fine day." We are told that "The Mass and Interludes are about each individual's struggles, which often grow into common struggles for all, with victories and defeats, moments of strength and weakness, yet always with an endless desire for peace." The extent to which this all-inclusive approach succeeds is up to the listener to judge, but the work is never less than approachable and interestingly varied. Jānis Pelše (organ), Ars Antiqua Riga; Pēteris Vaickovskis (conductor, vocalist).

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