Cage: Choral Works / Kļava, Latvian Radio Choir

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This new album release by the Latvian Radio Choir and conductor Sigvards Kļava on Ondine is devoted to choral works by the legendary American composer...

This new album release by the Latvian Radio Choir and conductor Sigvards Kļava on Ondine is devoted to choral works by the legendary American composer and music pioneer John Cage (1912–1992), one of the most leading figures in 20th Century music. John Cage is the dictionary definition of an avant-garde composer. Choral music and John Cage might seem like an odd pairing. And indeed, strictly speaking, Cage wrote only two compositions for chorus, both of which appear on this album: Hymns and Variations (1979) and Four2 (1990). The other works on the album are written for ensembles that are more or less open-ended and which have been interpreted here for choral forces. One reason Cage and choruses did not mix well may have been his notorious hostility to harmony in music. Arnold Schoenberg told Cage that he lacked any feeling for harmony, and that this would be a wall between him and his goal of being a composer. Given all this, it is no wonder that Cage and choruses didn’t tend to mingle together. And so it was not until Cage was 67 years old that he wrote his first work for choral forces: Hymns and Variations.

REVIEWS:

John Cage was barely a choral composer. But by combining the couple of pieces he wrote for chorus with a creative interpretation of the flexible instrumentation of a few other scores, you can arrive at an hour or so of mysterious, wordless music for vocal ensemble. “Hymns and Variations” (1979) is the earliest work on this intimate and luminous new album from the Latvian Radio Choir. Cage subtracts some notes from two hymns by the early American composer William Billings, and extends the duration of some that remain, creating an eerily pure, serene suggestion of 18th-century harmonies.

--The New York Times

That Cage delighted in provoking audiences is undoubtable, but his mischief concealed his seriousness of purpose. He revealed and explored a vast New World of sound which had hitherto been a terra incognita of the mind. But above all, Cage was a tireless proselytizer of the gospel of beauty and created some of the 20th century’s most radically beautiful music. These strands are united here in this breathtaking collection from Ondine of some of the composer’s late choral music performed by the Latvian Radio Choir.

--MusicWeb International

John Cage and choral music might seem strange bedfellows, but there was no corner of the musical landscape that this dedicated breaker of composition rules didn’t want to deconstruct. With its drifting, otherworldly textures, Five, from 1988, could almost have come from the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey, while Four2, astonishingly written for a high school choir, includes a tonal tenor and bass pairing, oozing quite unexpected calm.

[One] can’t but be stunned by the fearless skill of Sigvards Kļava’s choir as they navigate the most jagged, fragmented notes and pitches—the musical equivalent of climbing Mount Everest just with your hands and feet.

--BBC Music Magazine

There are, I think, two possible approaches to this recording. One is simply to listen through it and let the effect of the (very different) pieces on it wash over one, reacting to each in turn. The other is to read the excellent booklet notes by James Pritchett and then listen to the music, following in more or less detail what he explains in them. Either process would work, because the music is intrinsically interesting and frequently very impressive. It must be said as well that the singers sound as though they are enjoying themselves enormously.

--Gramophone



Product Description:


  • Release Date: July 15, 2022


  • UPC: 761195140222


  • Catalog Number: ODE 1402-2


  • Label: Ondine


  • Number of Discs: 1


  • Period: 20th Century


  • Composer: John Cage


  • Conductor: Sigvards Klava


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir



Works:


  1. Five

    Composer: John Cage

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava


  2. Hymns and Variations

    Composer: John Cage

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava


  3. Four2

    Composer: John Cage

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava


  4. Four6

    Composer: John Cage

    Ensemble: Latvian Radio Choir

    Conductor: Sigvards Kļava