Rizza Mysterium Amoris

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Margeret Rizza
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Rizza Mysterium Amoris
WORKS: Mysterium Amoris; Ave Maria; O magnum mysterium; In the Silence; Mary Slept; Fire of Love; O Sapientia, etc
PERFORMER: Gaudete Ensemble/Eamonn Gougan
CATALOGUE NO: 8573039

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Margaret Rizza was approaching 70 before she ever put a note on paper, having spent her professional life singing and teaching. She writes in a style dubbed ‘classical contemporary’, which in the opening Ave Maria produces a broadly cheerful, firmly tonal approach, built on chant-like nodules of basic thematic material, and relatively undemanding technically for the singers.

Rizzi herself writes of the ‘atmosphere of awesome wonder’ in the setting of O magnum mysterium which follows, but the style of singing again seems relatively forthright and extroverted in nature. In the silence feels more contemplative, alternating sections of plainsong with interludes for an ensemble of oboe, clarinet, cello and organ. A string quartet joins the organ for Fire of Love, with passages of earnest expressiveness for cello complementing those for solo soprano and tenor. The effect is more sweetly consolatory and reassuring than in any way fiery.

It is, in fact, the cosily devotional nature of this CD that may potentially divide listeners. If you’re already inside the tent, Rizza’s music will warm it pleasantly for you. If not, it can quickly come to seem a touch homogenised and repetitive in its sentiments and gestures.

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Terry Blain