ECMs New Series makes itself home to an important connection between sonically perfect interpretations of early music by Gesualdo, Perotin, Thomas Tallis, Orlando di Lasso, etc. (by, among others, the exceptional Hilliard Ensemble), and indispensable releases of contemporary works by Giya Kancheli, György Kurtág, Arvo Pärt, Gavin Bryars et al. (by the stellar likes of Kim Kashkashian, Dennis Russell Davies, Gidon Kremer and the Keller Quartet) Psalms of Repentance, Schnittkes very modern setting of 15th century texts from the Russian Orthodox tradition, joins the two poles of this musical dialectic, suggesting that the ancient past and the vivid present are not, in fact, removed from each other.
This entirely vocal sequence begins with a murmuring that descends then rises slowly through a feeling of irrevocable loss that dominates the first verse. As the second psalm opens, a solitary voice sings in Russian, "The desert receives me as a mother her child/Soft and mute " on the way to a very tentative rediscovery of the world of possibility, soon joined by other voices shifting, cloudlike, as in a secular nocturne by Debussy. Within moments, Schnittke begins layering musical realities as diverse as Tallis lamentations, Ravels mythologies, Orthodox liturgy and plain chant from the Middle Ages. The results are severe yet spectacular, dire but directed to whatever spiritual or preverbal experience our bodies can claim.
The excellent Swedish Radio Choir sings the 12th and last psalm "bocca chiusa" with closed mouth leaving us with the wordless mystery of existence, to wonder at the unanswered question posed by these sublime works. In Schnittkes own words: "I am not the result, but merely the tool; through me something outside myself becomes audible."
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.