Vespers for a New Dark Age

vespers_sFeel like listening to something different?  Then I can recommend Missy Mazzoli’s 2014 genre defying Vespers for a New Dark Age.  Conceptually it reimagines the traditional vespers prayer service with its, perhaps, archaic formality to explore he way we confront technology, ghosts, death, doubt and God in our “new dark age”.

Structurally there are eight movements run together which set fragments of poems by Matthew Zapruder.  The setting uses vocals, amplified strings, winds, organs, synthesizers and lots of electronics to create a weird and disturbing soundscape of many moods though the overall tone is very dark.

The performance is created by Mazzoli’s ensemble Victoire, Glenn Kotche (of Wilco) and vocalists Mellissa Hughes, Martha Cluver and Virginia Warnken (of Roomful of Teeth).  Electronic production is by synth producer Lorna Dune, who plays a crucial role, and is also responsible for the bonus track; an electronic remix of Mazzoli’s A Thousand Tongues.

The only criticism I have of the disk is that I couldn’t find the texts anywhere.  Sometimes they are clear enough on the recording, sometimes not so much.

Art nouveau Requiem

anrequiemSlightly off the usual Operaramblings track perhaps, but my attention was recently drawn to a book publishing project that may be of interest.  It’s a bilingual Latin/English text of the Mozart Requiem illustrated by artist Matt Hughes in art nouveau style.  It’s going to be a 60pp edition with 15 full colour illustrations including gold ink.  It’s hard cover bound with the edition size yet to be finalized but quite small.  Right now it’s at the Kickstarter phase with a still a little way to go to meet target and allow publication.  The book will include an introduction to the piece and the various stories/legends about its completion by the Guardian‘s music critic Erica Jeal and an essay on art nouveau by art blogger and gallery owner Olga Harmsen.  There are more details and samples of the art work on Matt’s website or you could just go straight to the Kickstarter page.

Howard and Haji

Yesterday afternoon’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured local tenor Andrew Haji and Welsh baritone Jason Howard in a program somewhat loosely linked to England.  Neither singer was, I think, 100% well (Haji’s cold was announced, Howrad’s merely obvious!) but both battled through manfully and gave us some fine singing.  There were some interesting contrasts especially in the first half of the program.  Andrew kicked off with Francesco Santoliquido’s I canti della sera.  I’m no expert on Italian art song but these did sound like songs rather than opera arias, at least in the hands of Andrew and Rachel Andrist.  In contrast, Jason’s set (Tosti’s L’ultima canzone, Respighi’s Nebbie, Tosti’s L’ideale and Verdi’s In solitaria stanza), with Robert Kortgaard sounded distinctly operatic and suited Jason’s darkish voice rather well.

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