10.05.2010

O Domina Nostra


Leave it to Kendall Feeney to continue to whet my appetite for contemporary music. This time it's a piece called "O Domina Nostra" by Henryk Górecki. I was first introduced to this Polish composer in Dr. Roger's Physics of Music in Westmont, quietly and patiently letting the devouring waves of his Symphony of Sad Songs wash over us. I'm particularly in love with the second movement of that piece, the cry of the child from the prison cell.
Picture
Lady of Jansa Góra

This latest piece is in the same vein, reflecting Górecki's powerfully mystical style, a style that takes a long time to unfold, but is well, well worth the wait. "O Domina Nostra" is written for solo soprano and organ, running about 18 minutes long. Can we say "pedal point"? A very long one with melodic fragments rising and falling and fading back into a steady D. The organ follows the simple contour of the soprano when she enters, once again falling back to the non silence of the pedal point. Diatonic glory is the name of the climax of this piece. Both instruments rise in a chillingly powerful and victorious melodic/harmonic cell, repeat, repeat, fade away, go to sleeeeeeep. The prayer to Poland's protectress augments out into silence.

Now this would be a mad Offertory. Sarah Leonard does a wonderful job as soprano, especially keeping an even and powerful tone in that high tessitura. Christopher Bowers-Broadbent makes his organ into a subtly nuanced and expressive singer while still retaining the immortal breathlessness of the machine. The performance has a rawness to it, a beauty like that of Lady of Jasna Góra herself.

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