Friday 2 September 2016

World Premiere recordings of Nicolas Kaviani’s Te Deum and Tous les matins du monde from Navona Records show why we need to hear more from this composer

American-born composer, Nicolas Kaviani has been actively composing chamber, orchestral and choral music since the age of 13. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2000, studying under the composer David Cope. He then went on to earn his grade de master in composition from the prestigious Conservatoire de Musique Olivier Messiaen in Avignon, France. There he was invited to attend master classes with some of the most prominent composers in France including, on one occasion, Pierre Boulez.

In September of 2014, Kaviani recorded his Te Deum with the Moravian Philharmonic and the Janacek Opera Choir conducted by Petr Vronský  in Olomouc, Czech Republic. This recording is coupled with his Tous les matins du monde for 16 unaccompanied voices performed by the Prague Mixed Chamber Choir directed by Jiří Petrdlík  has recently been released by Navona Records . These recordings are issued with a DVD documentary on the making-of the album entitled The making of a World Premiere.

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Petr Vronský and the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra and Janáček Opera Choir are joined by soloists, soprano Martina Králíková, alto Barbora Polášková, tenor Juraj Nociar, baritone Jiří Pribyl and organist Karel Martínek for the Te Deum (2005) for orchestra, choir and soloists. Lasting around twenty five minutes the Te Deum builds from a quiet orchestral opening to a strong dynamic entry for choir. Kaviani finds a strength and directness in his setting and, when alto Barbora Polášková enters immediately joined by soprano Martina Králíková they achieve a terrific blend. The choir takes the music forward vibrantly, surely influenced by Bach in this wholly approachable, yet very fine work. Brass add occasional dissonances as do woodwind as a quieter, gentler section arrives. The soprano returns in a particularly lovely section before the choir and orchestra rise through some grand passages to a height of exultation. The music suddenly drops as choir and orchestra bring a more thoughtful section featuring lower male voices leading into an orchestral passage that weaves some quite lovely sounds.

When baritone Jiří Pribyl enters he reveals a particularly fine voice to which tenor Juraj Nociar adds a lovely sonority in this rather exceptional passage, quite beautiful. They rise in drama a little before the baritone leads with his exceptionally fine voice, tenor and baritone blending so well. Female voices of the choir join gently over the orchestra before rising themselves only for the orchestra to hold back. The choir and orchestra rise again, then fall, creating a wonderful atmosphere of surging tension. Cymbal clashes are heard as the choir and orchestra rise to the heights.

Later there is a very fine fugal section for choir and orchestra before the music rises through dramatic passages to a peak of drama. The unaccompanied female voices enter to which brass add a counterpoint. When the male voices join, the tension is ratcheted up again with the solo soprano heard above all the solos voices who join the choir and orchestra to add to the drama. A flute introduces a calmer section for the choir as they weave a lovely line with the orchestra. The organ enters to accompany the orchestra in a sonorous passage with the choir finding a gentler strength before building, slackening through a lovely passage, only to subtly and slowly rise to an exultant coda pointed up by timpani.

This is a work that builds on tradition to find a strength and individual power of its own. Both choir, orchestra and soloists make a terrific show in this rather demanding work where there is little let up for the choir.

The recording made at the Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic in September 2014 brings much presence. The organ part was recorded at St. Moritz Church, Olomouc, Czech Republic.

Kaviani brings some impressive, dissonant choral lines to challenge any choir in Tous les matins du monde (2014) (All the mornings of the world) for 16 unaccompanied voices. Here with the voices of the Prague Mixed Chamber Choir under their director Jiří Petrdlík respond magnificently in this very fine setting. This is a work with superbly written choral lines, achieving some stunning vocal effects, this choir drawing many beauties from this short but challenging work.

The recording made at Martin Hall, Prague Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Czech Republic in 2014 is excellent.

The accompanying DVD documentary The making of a World Premiere moves from discussions between conductor and composer over the score of the Te Deum, through rehearsals and the problems of recording time and technical difficulties to the rehearsal of organ part and rehearsals for Tous les matins du monde.

The narration is in French with English subtitles but the main dialogue in in English.

The double CD case contains the English text of Tous les matins du monde and the composer’s view of the Te Deum but no other notes. 

We really do need to hear more of this composer’s music in both concerts and recordings. Lovers of fine choral music should hear this disc. 

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