The North German Radio Choir and Elbtonal Percussion perform works by Gubaidulina

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COMPOSERS: Gubaidulina
ALBUM TITLE: Gubaidulina
WORKS: Jauchzt vor Gott; Hell und Dunkel; Sonnengesang
PERFORMER: Ivan Monighetti (cello); North German Radio Choir; Elbtonal Percussion/Philipp Ahmann; Christian Schmitt (organ)


Though religiously inspired, none of Gubaidulina’s strange yet evocative music has been written for liturgical use. Yet the works on this CD, written for choir and/or organ, may all benefit from the atmosphere and spacious acoustic of a church; indeed both works involving organ here are recorded in churches. The opening piece, Jauchzt vor Gott (Make a Joyful Noise unto God) – new to disc though composed as far back as 1989 – was recorded in Hamburg’s Hauptkirche St Nikolai. Starting with an ever-circling plainchant-like idea, all the voices of the excellent NDR Chor soon pool into a sonorous cloud out of which solo voices spin, punctuated with baleful comments from the organ – a particularly impressive-sounding instrument in SACD sound. Any expectation this raises for the following solo organ work, Hell und Dunkel (Light and Darkness), is sadly disappointed: recorded at St John’s Church, Altona, Christian Schmitt’s performance might be described as cool-headed and thoughtful, but frankly sounds – even on its own terms – over-deliberate and dull, certainly no competitor against Kevin Bowyer’s lithe and compelling account on Nimbus.

Sonnengesang (Canticle of the Sun), recorded live in concert at the Rolf-Liebermann-Studio in Hamburg and at 40 minutes the longest and most substantial work, is more engaging, though too often the solo cellist, Ivan Monighetti, sounds cautious, even tentative. On the rival Chandos recording, by contrast, David Geringas is extrovert and purposeful in his dramatic swoops, and creates genuinely eerie sounds when he temporarily turns percussionist on his instrument; most importantly, unlike Monighetti, he is fully coordinated with his choir, directly stirring the singers into action rather than merely coinciding with them.


Daniel Jaffé