WORKS: Saul de Tarse; Vexilla regis prodeunt; Missa resurrectionis; Le tombeau d’Olivier Messiaen
PERFORMER: Kerstin Pettersson (soprano), Naji Hakim (organ); Academic Choir & Orchestra of Lund/Fredrik Malmberg, Schola Cantorum Scaniensis, Malmö
CATALOGUE NO: PRCD 545 DDD
Hakim pinpoints the genesis of his oratorio Saul de Tarse at his own baptism; given the name Paul, he has since felt ‘imprinted with the charisma of the apostle’ and drawn to follow his steps ‘in his universal epic across the centuries’. The three-part work, written in 1991, divides – after a short prologue – into the ‘Martyrdom of Stephen’, ‘Conversion and Mission of Paul’ and ‘Paul, Witness of Christ’. The protagonists and chorus, aided by a narrator, interact in economical and ‘user-friendly’ music redolent of Twenties Paris; the musical drama – performed convincingly by the Swedish choir and orchestra – is taut and never overly histrionic.
In the last twenty years, Hakim has won many major organ improvisation prizes. It is not surprising, therefore, that his music is conceived through the physicalities of performance, the co-ordination of mind and fingers. The two solo organ pieces recorded here (played by the composer with convincing aplomb) set out many of his player-composer techniques. Moreover, Le tombeau d’Olivier Messiaen, a memorial work in the French tradition, quotes Messiaen (whom he succeeded at La Trinité in Paris) stylistically and alludes to two of his vocal works from the Forties. Andrew McCrea