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Gabriella GULLIN (b. 1961)
Requiem per il uomo innocente

Jesper Taube, (baritone)
Markus Leoson (percussion)
Per Thunarf (organ)
Sancta Clara Motet Choir/Michael Waldenby
Recorded in the Sancta Clara Church, Stockholm, Sweden, 11 April 2002. DDD
NOSAG CD 2078 [49:35 + 54:00]

Gabriella Gullin is a new name to me but we are told that she is a talented young Swedish composer. Gullin has displayed her versatility with an varied output of works for choir, chamber music, music for orchestra, organ music as well as songs. The booklet notes to this double set explain that, ‘her personal and colourful approach, and ability to integrate both emotion and intellect in her creations, has generated many commissioned works.’ Gullin clearly has a special liking for the voice and as a mezzo-soprano herself she has undoubtedly a deep knowledge of choral singing.

This recently written Requiem was premiered on March 24, 2002 in Stockholm and this Nosag release is the world premiere recording. The record company claims that the Requiem is a, ‘dynamic, beautiful, power-filled, meditative and extremely well-composed work that links splendidly to the rich tradition of great sacred pieces through music history’.

The Requiem per il uomo innocente is scored for baritone, mixed choir, percussion and church organ. It is divided into twelve movements of lengths that vary considerably. The opening Requiem et Kyrie has the baritone soloist prominent throughout and sets the scene with an intense emotional tone and often ghostly effects. A wordless Introitus for organ and percussion follows. The Introitus, with one forte passage, provides a mainly restful interlude if situated at what seems a rather premature position in the work. An extremely substantial third movement Dies Irae at over twenty-seven minutes, the longest of all the movements, dominates the score. Substantial demands are made on both the baritone soloist and the choir. This is a varied movement overflowing with melody and invention. The use of the organ and percussion at several points conveys extra colour and adds to the attractions of the movement. The first CD concludes with a Domine Jesu Christe - an expressive and moody movement which makes considerable demands on the Sancta Clara Motet Choir, with just a short passage for the solo organ in the central section. The baritone soloist enters with organ accompaniment shortly before the end.

A Sanctus opens the second CD and places the baritone further back in the proceedings. Increasingly unusual effects from the organ and percussion convey a ghostly sensation. In the Benedictus we experience a return to relative calm with the choir taking centre-stage and only sparing use of the organ. The choir in the brief Pie Jesu provides an atmosphere of near serenity. In the Agnus Dei the choir and organ maintain the relaxed mood. The restoration of the baritone to the male voices of the choir in the Lux Aeterna heralds an undercurrent of restlessness and this builds up to increase the tension and despair. In the Libera Me the uneasiness conveyed in the baritone and organ parts maintains the strained and uncertain atmosphere. The penultimate movement is a peaceful and gentle rocking Intermezzo for solo organ. A lengthy final movement In Paradisum opens with a rather solemn baritone solo and the entry of the choir and organ only serves to maintain the sombre mood. Midway through the movement the introduction of percussion provides a welcome revitalisation and significantly adds an increased spectrum of colour to the score. The movement closes on an uncertain note with a deep sense of sorrow.

Although the Requiem per il uomo innocente is a most imaginative, often exhilarating and deeply-felt composition I am unsure if the content is of a sufficiently consistent quality to sustain the interest throughout the duration of one hour and forty three minutes. However the score from the talented Gabriella Gullin contains much to admire and deserves to be heard; especially in a performance as fine as this. Baritone Jesper Taube gives an imposing performance in his challenging role with a pious authority that adds appropriately to the liturgical nature of the score. The Sancta Clara Motet Choir under the direction of Michael Waldenby are in consistently fine voice in Gullin’s often difficult vocal arrangements. The organist Per Thunarf, who I assume plays the organ of the Sancta Clara Church, Stockholm, is on top form, as is percussionist Markus Leoson meeting the score’s wide-ranging demands.

The Nosag engineers are to be complimented for a sound quality that I very much enjoyed. The booklet notes are rather sparse and generally uninteresting with full Latin texts that unfortunately do not contain English translations. A rather unusual work, imaginatively scored and extremely accessible. Fine performances too.

Michael Cookson

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