Roxanna Panufnik: Dance of Life

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COMPOSERS: Roxanna Panufnik
LABELS: Warner Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Dance of Life
WORKS: Tallinn Mass
PERFORMER: Patricia Rozario (soprano); Jaak Johanson (narrator); Laura Lindpere (kannel); Madis Metsamart (percussion); Estonian TV Girl’s Choir; Collegium Musicale Chamber Choir; Choir of Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre; Tallin Chamber Orchestra/Mihhail Gerts
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 64281-9


Of the texts set here, Dance of Life is the bigger entity: its 19 poems (translated from the Estonian, originally written by Doris Kareva and Jürgen Rooste) are juxtaposed with traditional texts from the Latin Mass, the settings of which can performed separately as the Tallinn Mass, lasting 20 minutes.

There’s a substantial part for narrator, who recites some of the poetry in good but obviously non-native English, either unaccompanied or with underscoring. Other sections are given to solo soprano, where Patricia Rozario makes a typically vivid, committed impression.

The poems themselves are loosely, at times eccentrically based around the city of Tallinn and its inhabitants, and their juxtaposition with the Latin interpolations seems semantically random, if not completely baffling. The choral contributions tend to be brief, and range from the traditionally ecclesiastical to onomatopoeic imitations of cream being whisked and thickening.

That widely, perhaps wildly, varied mix of ingredients makes Dance of Life a difficult work to fasten onto. Panufnik’s music, though incorporating Estonian folk material and colourfully deploying bells and the native kannel (a type of zither), fails to generate cumulative momentum, or leave much imprint on the memory. Perhaps it resonated differently, and more relevantly, for those present at the Tallinn premiere in 2011.


Terry Blain