- Styx, for viola, mixed chorus & orchestra
- The Myrrh-Bearer, for viola, chorus & percussion
This CD includes two pieces for an extraordinary combination of forces: solo viola, chorus, and orchestra (or percussion). Composers Giya Kancheli and John Tavener are frequently classified as "holy minimalists," but the designation "holy post-modernist" would be more accurate, if decidedly less spiritual sounding. Both composers are products of secular societies, have developed a preoccupation with spiritual topics in their music, and have rejected the prevailing modernism of their times in favor of a style, which in spite of its emotional directness and simplicity can't by any stretch of the imagination be legitimately characterized as minimalism. One characteristic that links Kancheli and the other so-called "holy minimalists" such as Górecki and Pärt is the earnest sobriety of their music. It would be ungenerous to characterize the work of such a diverse group of composers as humorless, but (particularly among those who suffered for the bulk of their professional lives under the artistic restrictions of the Eastern Bloc) their work is often notable for its relentlessly somber tone. That is the case of the two works recorded here. The darkness of the viola in its lower register and the agonized wail of its absolutely highest notes make it an apt vehicle for Kancheli's and Tavener's sober and sometimes anguished visions, and they write for it with great expressiveness. Both composers use the chorus orchestrally, more to create a particular textural color than to convey textual content, and their choral writing is inventive and colorful. The works are harmonically sumptuous and richly imagined, and they have an undeniably powerful emotional fiber. Violist Maxim Rysanov and conductor Máris Sirmais, leading the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, the youth choir, Kamer…, and the State Choir Latvija perform with all the virtuosity and wrenching intensity the works require.