Golijov: St Mark Passion

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Golijov
LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: St Mark Passion
PERFORMER: Soloists; Caracas Schola Cantorum, Cantoría Alberto Grau, Orchestra La Pasión/Maria Guinand
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.404
A shame this couldn’t have been a video. Exciting and colourful as the music is, there’s a feeling that some important aspect of the total experience is missing. Osvaldo Golijov’s St Mark Passion is, as the booklet note acknowledges, ‘a kind of musical theatre situated between opera and liturgy, depiction and ritual’. Even the orchestra (rich in traditional Latin American percussion instruments) is part of the spectacle. The rhythms of the music, which ranges from rock to Brazilian, Cuban and African dance and Jewish chant, with occasional echoes of slick modern minimalism (and perhaps a nod or two towards Carl Orff), constantly suggest physical movement. While I enjoyed a lot of the sounds, I kept longing to see what the performers were doing. Still, this St Mark Passion is worth experiencing as sound alone. Golijov has done much more than play pick-and-mix with diverse musical cultures. There’s real creative friction here: as when Reich-like chant-lines rise ecstatically from the pounding Latin repeated rhythms of ‘Confession’, or when the soprano’s melting slow melismas meet glassy minimal string quartet harmonies

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in ‘Colourless Moon’. The St Mark Passion is performed with plenty of soul and raw energy – as it needs to be – and the live recording is vivid and convincingly balanced, though occasionally the ends of tracks cut the atmosphere a mite too quickly. Stephen Johnson