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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Partita; Quattro inni sacri; Noche oscura; Coro di morti
PERFORMER: Giorgio Berrugi (tenor), Vasily Ladyuk (baritone); Coro Teatro Regio Torino; Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda


The Petrassi discovery continues. Here, following a highly successful first CD from Chandos, nominated for a BBC Music Magazine Choral Award in 2014, is a second clutch of important works by the Italian composer, rarely heard outside his native country.

Coro di morti was written when Italy entered World War Two, and undoubtedly reflects that brutal conflict, not least in the orchestration for male voices, three pianos, brass, double basses and percussion, with high strings omitted. They conjure a sepulchral atmosphere, which suits the striking text by Giacomo Leopardi, where mummified corpses reflect balefully on mortality. Owing a little to Orff, and a lot to Stravinsky, the work is slavishly imitative of neither.

From the same period date the Quattro inni sacri, two of which are for tenor, two for baritone. Though less intense, they provide plenty of expressive opportunities for the ardent soloists and they skirt operatic verismo at the climaxes of Te lucis ante terminum and Salvete Christi vulnera in particular.

The 20-minute cantata Noche oscura is altogether more visionary in idiom, its restlessly wafting chromaticism framing the extraordinarily sensual poetry of St John of the Cross. Gianandrea Noseda’s tempos court sluggishness on occasion, but it’s a risk worth taking, and the choir responds empathetically to the strange, half-worldly shadings in Petrassi’s writing.

The impressively pugnacious Partita acts as a curtain raiser, and the orchestra enjoys itself nailing down the spiky rhythms of the outer movements. Another thought-provoking, highly worthwhile Petrassi programme.


Terry Blain