AmbrožČOPI (b.1973) Musica Sacra Praeparate Corda Vestra (2001) [3:38]
Four Marian Antiphons (2008-12) [14:33]
Three Sacred Hymns (2013) [8:34] Bonus est Dominus (2004) [3:15] In Domino speravit cor Meum; motets (2003-11) [13:00]
Psalm 108 (1996) [4:29]
Chamber Choir Ave/Ambrož Čopi
rec. 2013, Church of St John the Baptist, Preska, Slovenia
Texts and translations included AČOP CD001 [48:14]
Lyrical Watercolours (1991-94) [11:39]
Three Poems by Edvard Kocbek (2007 rev 2010) [7:31]
You and I (2007) [3:20]
Three Smiles (2007 rev 2010) [6:58]
Angels (2013) [18:08]
Slovenian Chamber Choir/Martina Batič
rec. 2014, Studio 26 RTV Slovenia
Texts and translations included AČOP CD002 [47:56]
We have two sides of Ambrož Čopi in these discs: the sacred and the profane. First a necessary biographical word or two about this Slovenian composer. He graduated in composition from Ljubljana Conservatory in 1996 before pursuing post-graduate studies and working as a vocal assistant. He also worked as a singer. Voice is very much his metier and, alongside his professional work as a music teacher in an Arts Grammar School in his native country, he is also a choral conductor. He has won numerous awards and is still in his early 40s.
One can gauge his resourcefulness as a conductor from the Sacred disc in which he directs Chamber Choir Ave – each choir member is thoughtfully mentioned by name in the card gatefold sleeve. The music here is warmly laid out, expertly too, for the choral forces. Even in the series of four Marian Antiphons one feels a strong lyric generosity but no sense of pastiche or evocation of early models. Broadly late-Romantic he is however not immune to some light contemporary influences. The last of the Antiphons is lightly swinging, offering a traditional cum contemporary setting. The first of the three Sacred Hymns shows a more obviously Slavonic hymnal orientation, reflected in the choir’s bass extensions. In other settings solo voices play off each other, and the choir, but in a setting as movingly beautiful as the last, the Lord’s Prayer, one can but admire Čopi’s concentration on choral lyricism. Elsewhere he can be jocular and easy-going and indeed the last of his set of motets called In Domino speravit cor Meum sounds like a light, show tune complete with the choir’s hand claps. The three hymns were dedicated to Schnittke and whilst it’s possible to detect some influence I wouldn’t put it any higher than that.
The artwork is red for Sacred and blue for the Secular disc, which is similarly housed in a card gatefold. Here the fine Slovenian Chamber Choir is directed by Martina Batič. Astutely attentive to textual implications – fortunately all the Slovenian texts are printed alongside translations into English – he is not afraid to paint character fully nor to suggest momentarily plainchant in his settings, something he does in the sacred album too. But his main interest is in drawing out the interrogative or consoling nature of the texts. Perhaps the most sheerly lovely of these profane settings is the central one of the Three Smiles, resonant, rich, consoling. Folkloric hues fleck the final setting in this set. And once again Čopi certainly doesn’t turn his face away from the current scene. At one point he gets a Musical-type number going adding a boombox rhythm, and a rap sample in the last of his Angelic settings. It’s an unusual moment. To all these demands the choir responds with great technical accomplishment and it’s extremely well directed.
The recordings are similarly accomplished and the two discs are very nicely put together. I’d never come across Čopi before, but I’m glad I did.