Vox clamatis/Organ concerto/Missa cum populo
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
& Chorus/Neumann, Pesek/Kamila Klugarova (organ)
Panton 81 1141-2 60
This selection of three memorable works by Petr Eben can be warmly welcomed
as an introduction to the music of this important Czech composer. He was
featured at the Aldeburgh Festival some years back and the music has something
in common with Britten's music composed for particular occasions and performers.
To give another clue to its orientation, it brought to mind the striking,
and determinedly accessible, recent music of the Scottish composer James
Vox clamatis (crying in the wilderness) for three trumpets and orchestra
(premiered in Prague, 1970) commemorates the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia
in 1968, when cries for help proved to be in vain. It is a powerful single
movement with a climax marked by an exclamation in Hebrew, Prepare ye
the way of the Lord, followed by a quotation from the earliest Czech
chorale and an uneasy, equivocal conclusion.
Eben's fourth Mass, Missa cum populo, recorded live in 1987, incorporates
an una voce part for the congrgation, with responses in the Kyrie,
chanting of the opening words of the Credo and the Agnus Dei building a
passacaglia over a singable theme for the congregation. There are several
solo sections for organ, which could be played separately. It is comparable
to Britten's St. Nicholas, and equally effective and moving. Requiring
only choir, brass and percussion, it is eminently suitable for church concerts.
The Concerto no 2 for Organ and Orchestra is an important contribution to
a genre dominated in UK by that of Poulenc and by the Saint-Saens organ symphony.
Sub-titled Symphonia Gregoriana, it quotes from chorales and explores
'negation which threatens spiritual values'. There are five linked parts,
its overall feeling tense and excitable, sometimes oppressive, reflecting
the atmosphere in the early 1980s, prior to its premiere for the consecration
of Vienna Radio's new organ in 1983. It is vividly played by Kamila Klugarova
and superbly recorded under the direction of Milan Slavicky, another notable
Czech composer. Every indication is that it would be highly effective in
any church festival which involves a symphony orchestra.
This CD dates from 1992, but the production and recording quality is magnificent,
with notes by the composer himself.
Peter Grahame Woolf