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Martin PALMERI (b. 1965)
Misa a Buenos Aires ‘Misatango’ [38.07]
Tango Gloria [30.50]
Matthias Jung (conductor)
Heidi Maria Taubert (soprano)
Annekathrin Laabs (contralto)
Clemens Heidrich (bass)
Sächsiches Vocalensemble
Cuarteto Rotterdam
Dresdner Kapellsolisten
rec. Annenkirche, Dresden, March 2016
CPO 555092-2 [69.13]

Palmeri is a composer new to me but on the evidence of this release, one well worth following.

The composer was born in Argentina – in the works here he takes inspiration from the tango, but blends this with some traditional religious writing. The tango has undergone so many twists in its development that it has both flexibility and variety – it can be solemn as well as punchy. Nor is there anything inappropriate using the music of dance to express religiously significant text. Bach was not afraid to use dance-inspired rhythms in his religious works, and there are conscious echoes of the B Minor Mass in these works.

The Misatango, premiered by the Orquestra Sinfónica de Cuba in 1996, taps into both tango and polyphonic textures. It would work equally well in a liturgical setting: the text is the common Ordinary of the Mass – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei – familiar from any regular setting. There are no liberties taken with the text, no interpolations, and no lack of reverence. It is an example of what is known in contemporary theological circles as ‘inculturation’ – devotion imbued with local culture. The scoring reflects this – mezzo-soprano (here the excellent and strong-voiced Annakathrin Laabs), mixed choir, tango quartet and strings – and forces are used with subtlety. The bandodeon reminds us of the relationship to tango – after all, when it was first introduced to bands in South America, it had a slowing effect on the dance orchestras as players became used to playing it – and the tango developed as replacement for waltz and polka.

The result is a rich work – listen, for instance, to how, in the Sanctus, joyous rhythms alternate with more solemn contemplation of the Latin text before the hushed and solemn opening of the Benedictus, perhaps the highlight of the composition.

In some respects, the Gloria from 2014, is more complex. Partly the addition of winds and two more vocal soloists permits even greater variety, partly also the additional time allotted to a single prayer, with its joyous opening of praise, its closing laudatory doxology and the contrasting central pleas for forgiveness and mercy, give composers so many opportunities for variety – as Poulenc and Vivaldi knew very well. Even if not quite in their league, there is nothing unworthy in this successor, from the clamant opening through the pleas for mercy to the conclusion. Throughout, there is a sensitivity to text and writing which permits its clear articulation (not true in every baroque or classical Mass).

As a production, the CD is a joy. Notes are informative, texts, even though so familiar, are provided; performances are committed.

Michael Wilkinson



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