Golijov: Oceana; Tenebrae; Three Songs

COMPOSERS: Golijov
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Golijov
WORKS: Oceana; Tenebrae; Three Songs
PERFORMER: Luciana Souza (vocals), Dawn Upshaw (soprano), Elizabeth Remy Johnson (harp), Jamie Haddad (percussion), Jay Anderson (bass), Scott Tennant, John Dearman (guitars); Gwinnett Young singers; Kronos Quartet; Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra/Robert Spa
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6426
Commissioned as a homage to Bach, Oceana dates from early in its composer’s rise to international recognition. A half-hour cantata, its idiom embraces South American roots as well as the beginnings of the cross-cultural range and confidence that made such a striking experience of his Lorca opera Ainadamar.

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The words are by Neruda, an invocation of the sea full of heightened imagery. Golijov’s most personal trait, his long-breathed eloquence with solo voices, takes flight with the professionalism of Brazilian star Luciana Souza backed by choruses and an orchestra sparkling with both guitars and harp. While the choral music takes a while to find variety of colour and density, it contributes to the work’s eventual sweeping energy and has the gentle ebb and flow of the end to itself.

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In contrast, Tenebrae for quartet and the Three Songs are slow, reflective and wrapped in quiet major-key despair. Kronos have the measure of the former’s mix of Baroque lyrical lines and pulsing support, while Dawn Upshaw goes into Górecki mode. The first song, a too easily affecting lullaby, turns first into a kind of klezmer and then thoroughly East European, and the final Emily Dickinson setting culminates memorably in bold, arching phrases. Robert Maycock