David Lang's "the little match girl passion," for vocal quartet doubling on percussion instruments, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008. It's a strong, striking piece with a surprisingly potent emotional punch. Part of its effectiveness derives from the story itself, which is so achingly poignant that it can hardly fail to raise a lump in the throat. The text is primarily compiled from the story by Hans Christian Andersen and from familiar sections from Bach's "St. Matthew Passion," which sound fresh and new in English translation.
Chaque chapitre de cette surprenante " anatomie " (La tête, Le cœur, Les seins, Le ventre, Les mains, Le sexe, Les pieds…) révèle les persécutions religieuses perpétrées sur le corps des femmes, les dégâts qu'elles infligent, l'ordre patriarcal qu'elles imposent. …
Though born in Ukraine, composer Galina Grigorjeva has lived in Estonia since 1992 and has worked within that country's deep tradition of sacred choral music. She studied music in Tallinn in the mid-'90s, and her music is thus interesting in terms of representing the thoughts of a younger generation that has absorbed the holy minimalism of Arvo Pärt as well as a variety of other styles from the Slavic world and beyond. Indeed, the unifying stylistic thread of the six works on the album can be hard to find, and indeed the booklet notes by Saale Karede point to "the living light that glows through the music," most of it religious.
Hearing or performing music comes closest in the range of human activity to a visceral connection to the past. As long as we have notation and knowledge of how to interpret it, we can effectively experience something like our ancestors did when they sang the same music. Of course, our 20th-century sensibilities and knowledge–or lack thereof–prevent us from sharing identical responses, but as with the music on this disc, when we hear it we are in some way transported to another place. We know a completely different sound world from our own; we know that the accepted order of certain things was different. And we also know that in many ways people haven't changed. Machaut's music conveys a spirituality–both joyful and contemplative–that's as true in its impact as it must have been 600 years ago, a point made ever so clearly by these especially vibrant and vital performances.
This collection of works for unaccompanied voices is bookended by works by singer Cathy Berberian and composer Luciano Berio, who were once married to each other. John Cage's Story is a movement of his percussion quartet Living Room Music, while Young Turtle Asymmetries is by Cage's pupil Jackson Mac Low and Roger Marsh's Not a Soul But Ourselves is set to a text by James Joyce. Usually done solo, Berberian's Stripsody, with its score consisting solely of cartoons, is sung here by a trio and must be heard to be believed.