Podgaits, Bortniansky

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COMPOSERS: Bortniansky,Podgaits
LABELS: Opus 111
WORKS: Missa veris.Liturgy for three voices
PERFORMER: Vesna Moscow Children’s Choir/ Alexander Ponomarev
CATALOGUE NO: OPS 30-224
The 50-strong Vesna Moscow Children’s Choir, a dedicated and well-disciplined young ensemble, gave the premiere of the Spring Mass by Ephrem Podgaits (b1949) in Moscow only last year. It’s an attractively conceived work, Catholic in inspiration, with the usual Latin movements reordered in to a kind of ‘spiritual symphony’. Parts are touchingly naive, in a modern Orthodox manner. Others provide a suitable challenge for divided children’s voices, though the prolonged Kyrie and contemplative Miserere embrace a slow tempo which taxes intonation. A cartwheeling Benedictus, with cheerful, resonant alto line, recalls Britten’s ebullient writing for the liturgy; an enchanting duet and shy, wafting solo in the ‘Dona nobis pacem’ provide added contrast. The Credo, evolving over a dark, Langlais-like organ monody, achieves an almost Pendereckian emotive power and intensity.

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Bortniansky’s unaccompanied 19th-century Orthodox Liturgy, couched in seven short movements, is a polished gem. The Vesna Choir sings it with warmth, charm and gravitas, and the lucid three-part textures show off the children’s voices in the best possible light. Roderic Dunnett