Momotenko: Choral Works / Kļava, Latvian Radio Choir

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Latvian Radio Choir’s new album conducted by Sigvards Kļava marks the international debut of composer Alfred Momotenko (b. 1970). Momotenko was born in Lviv, Ukraine, in 1970. He studied at the Sochi College of Arts and later percussion at the Moscow State University of Culture and Art. In 1990, the political situation having changed, Momotenko moved to the Netherlands where he continued his studies at the Brabant Conservatory and at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague. Momotenko’s timeless choral works continue the centuries old great tradition of choral works combining them with contemporary language, a blend most recently exemplified by the likes of Alfred Schnittke.

Surrounded by choral music in his youth, Momotenko has returned to the world of choral music at a relatively late period: all the works on this album have been written between 2017 and 2022. Many of his enigmatic choral works are religious and could be described as poems or chants – larger than a miniature but less extensive than a fantasy, a narrative, a ballad or a story. Often there are two contrasting musical languages that are present: the ancient, pristine Znamennyj Chant and the modern one. Besides liturgic texts, Momotenko’s choral works include settings to poems by Boris Pasternak and Joseph Brodsky. The largest work, Na Strastnoy (On the Passion), is a companion piece Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil.

REVIEW:

The recital is cleverly structured. We start on familiar ground with Creator of Angels – a setting of lines from Bella Akhmadulina (distilled here into a shorter whole) that supplicate for mercy. Threads of Znamenny chant run through thick vertical textures, always rooted in widespaced bass parts. The effect is ancient, but softening into 21st-century lyricism. We hear flickers of Silvestrov, Tavener and E≈envalds, but also of Chesnokov, Grechaninov and their ilk.

Then we start to push off from land – gently at first in the short Three Sacred Hymns, with their modal harmonies and sinuous lines that always seem to tug back to the fixed point of unison, and then more rhapsodically in Lullaby: upper voices an endless flat horizon, harp ripples and sound-bursts silhouetted against them. We’re in another world by the time we reach On the Passion. This setting of Pasternak’s poetry from Dr Zhivago (this time intended as a companion for Rachmaninoff’s Vespers) is a trove of imagery. Birdsong, bells, Holy Week processions and folk dances draw a musical ‘essay’ from Momotenko that extends the composer’s harmonic and textural vocabulary with nonsense syllables and stamping – effects as well as melodies. Voices are fragmented down to endless solo strands (the technical challenge is immense), intersecting and coming together with Ives-like sonic cinema.

Kl,ava marshals his singers with unobtrusive precision. The 24-strong group are shape-shifters, slipping imperceptibly from chorus to soloists, from knitted web to filigree strands. Balance, not dynamics, is the principal expressive force here. Kl,ava pulls details and lines forwards or pushes them back flush, creating the depth and play of light that really makes this debut sing.

-- Gramophone



Product Description:


  • Release Date: November 18, 2022


  • Catalog Number: ODE 1413-2


  • UPC: 761195141328


  • Label: Ondine


  • Number of Discs: 1


  • Period: Contemporary


  • Composer: Alfred Momotenko


  • Conductor: Sigvards Klava


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir



Works:


  1. Angelov Tvorche (Creator of Angels)

    Composer: Alfred Momotenko

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava


  2. Sacred Hymns (3)

    Composer: Alfred Momotenko

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava


  3. Koliskova, mami (Lullaby)

    Composer: Alfred Momotenko

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava


  4. Na Strastnoy (On the Passion)

    Composer: Alfred Momotenko

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava


  5. Tayna Molchania (Mystery of Silence)

    Composer: Alfred Momotenko

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava


  6. Miracle

    Composer: Alfred Momotenko

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava