Peter-Anthony Togni: Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae (ECM New Series 2129)

 

Peter-Anthony Togni
Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae

Jeff Reilly bass clarinet
Elmer Iseler Singers
Rebecca Whelan soprano
Lydia Adams conductor
Recorded October 2008 at All Saints Cathedral, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Produced by Manfred Eicher

I am become a derision to all my people, and their song all the day.
–Prophet Jeremiah

Nova Scotian composer Peter-Anthony Togni gets his long overdue inauguration into ECM’s hallowed halls with this gorgeously conceived “concerto” setting of Jeremiah’s Book of Lamentations. A bass clarinet dons improvisatory clothing as the Prophet in question, wandering the streets of a complacent populace, represented here by a modest vocal ensemble. Jeff Reilly is the virtuoso soloist and provides a nuanced performance against the choir’s own measured readings.

Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae (2007) is structured in five sections, each an ode to speech, time, and place. “Quomodo Sedet Sola Civitas” (How doth the city sit solitary) bemoans Jerusalem’s manifold miseries with a long oration from Reilly, whose technical prowess is shown to suitable effect as the voice that will not be heeded. The choir lifts eyes, only to blind itself in the glare of a reality it wishes not to accept. A dazzling soprano soloist draws her line of wisdom through this tangled argument, carrying us with grace into “Quomodo Dominus Filiam Sion Obtexit” (How hath the lord covered with obscurity the daughter of Zion). Jeremiah opens his arms again, only to be met with a mob of resistance. The choir raises its arms, but can only bring them down upon itself like a wrathful wound. As we open into “Silentio” (Silence), the Prophet pleads in frustration, where he is met with more urgency. These outbursts only serve to heighten the solace in whose name they are offered, each a stepping-stone to selfless understanding. This process offers our first intimation of hope, a touch of stasis before the gales of the next poem whip across our hearts. The case of “Quomodo Obscuratum Est Aurum” (How is the gold become dim) is quickly usurped by the soprano’s return, which again traces the people’s unwise actions to the very destruction their ways has wrought, before salvation returns with full force in “Recordare, Domine” (Remember, o Lord), bidding the Prophet to lift his voice in harmony as the light of Zion crashes on the shores of the suffering in which they all share.

While one may wish to draw an affinity to ECM’s popular Officium project, pairing as it does an aleatoric reed with relatively structured voices, the ascetic Lamentatio carves a distinct contemplative space in which the composer’s voice is duly heard. A harmonious marriage of form, production, and content, this is a welcome new addition to the label family that bears repeated aural and spiritual consideration.

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