|REVIEWS: pilgrim's star pps 27002 PIerucci: Via Crucis|
The choruses, solos and organ interludes are simple and diatonic, yet somehow fresh and original. The four soloists are first class. English and Italian translations are included.
The music is highly traditional and, whilst it is in no way derivative, it will appeal to those who love the choral music of Faure, Rachmaninov and Elgar. The music does not tire after a few hearings; indeed its spiritual depths become gradually more appreciable with repetition. As with all great music, it can be perceived at different levels; individual listeners will no doubt find it their own particular exploration of interior emotion. Two complementary but distinct modes of listening recommend themselves: One is the more systematic - to follow the translated text of each meditation whilst reading in parallel the prayers from the Missal which accompany Christ on his journey from death sentence to crucifixion and burial. This approach may well appeal to practising Catholics in their passiontide devotions. The other mode is to allow the ineffable qualities of the music and Russian words to take one on a less defined psychedelic journey without giving too much analytical thought to the literal meanings. Like Elgar's "The Dream of Gerontius", this work is at once both explicitly anchored in Christian (indeed specifically catholic) faith, and at the same time resonates with all those (of any religious faith or none) who find inspiration in the drama of the journey of the human soul through direst adversity to an ultimate state of joy and triumph.
Throughout most of this cantata, the words and music match (either obviously or more subtly) the events of each Station: for instance, the exchange between mother and son at Station 4 is directly mirrored in the antiphonal singing of the bass and mezzo-soprano soloists. On occasions however, the connections are less clear: what precisely has the meditation on the Light of Heaven at Station 5 to do with Simon Cyreni's carrying the cross of Jesus? And why is the nailing to the cross of Station 11 set to a vigorous Allegro choral fugato? There are surreal elements in this music! Be that as it may, the joyful fortissimo ending of Station 14, with its anticipation of the Resurrection triumph, is the most fitting climax of the whole cantata toward which the earlier quiet contemplative movements have been inexorably leading.
The quality of choral and soloist singing is of high excellence throughout - likewise the organ playing; it is a pity there are no biographical notes about the organist D.Ckramtai. A question that must be asked is: Why were operatic soloists, excellent though they be, employed in this recording? Unlike oratorio, this cantata is music for church performance rather than theatre or concert hall. Would not the tonal qualities of cathedral cantors have been more appropriate? A useful addition to the accompanying booklet would have been to provide the original Russian text (transliterated please!) as well as the English and Italian translations, the better to appreciate the sonorous sound of the Russian vowels. I have a suspicion that the (unfortunately anonymous) translator concentrated too much on literal word for word translation, so that the English reads like stilted prose having lost the poetic resonance of the Russian original. These reservations apart, this music is a major discovery and proof positive that great choral writing did not die with Elgar in 1934. It is to be hoped that this cantata will be picked up by choral societies and receive a richly deserved place in the choral repertory. Award * * * * (*)
FANFARE (USA): (extract)
CHOIR & ORGAN Magazine:
Via Crucis is a cantata by Fr. Armando Pierucci, with texts by the Russian poet Regina Derieva, in the form of meditations based on the Stations of the Cross. One could be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the prospect of an Italian priest setting Russian words and the whole lot being sung by a Lithuanian choir and a varied selection of soloists. Well, surprisingly, it all fits together quite neatly. You can’t get more cosmopolitan than that. The musical language of Fr. Pierucci is eclectic and none the worse for it. He blends Italianate lyricism with Slav majesty and gravitas. I found the result fascinating if not always convincing. Quite whether this style will become liturgically adopted in the Roman Church I rather doubt, and probably more’s the pity. It would be an improvement on much of the ephemeral tripe that has been on offer of late.
The singing, from both the soloists and from the choir is, not surprisingly, excellent. The accompanist is good, though the instrument, an un-named electronic organ, is dire. The addition at one point of an electronic keyboard ( or possibly an organ stop) rankled considerably. All that said, I reckon that if you put a stylophone in St. Kasimir’s Church in Vinius it would sound brilliant. The acoustic and the engineering are first rate, a big pity about the instrument. [** NB but see review below for contrary view!] Overall, it’s a disc worth buying for the singing alone and what is, in all honesty, an interesting work. It may convince one day – see what you think.
In many ways this authentic piece deserves a wide audience, and one can readily imagine it fulfilling a need amongst the more musical of our parish church choirs, particularly those looking for a refreshing and modern, yet basically traditional piece for performance at Eastertime.
It is the text by the Russian poet Regina Derieva that additionally sets this work somewhat apart… her lines “a man who lives in the sick Fatherland in the Satanic years suddenly understands that the sense of life is only in God” combine to make a thoughtful and penetrating text, well captured by this genuine and gifted composer… A fascinating and, in its way, important issue to which I have returned often with growing compulsion and interest.
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