Iva Bittová / Marek Stryncl / Milos Valent

Vladimír Godár: Mater

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Vladimír Godár is a Slovak composer born in 1956 whose music bears a resemblance to Arvo Pärt's and Henryk Górecki's. Godár, like them, consciously rejected modernism in favor of harmonic and melodic simplicity, and his compositional palette is similarly circumscribed. The sound of his music is frequently closer to Górecki's in its adherence to a more conventionally Western sense of dramatic momentum, but the forces for which he writes -- in this case, soloist, choir, and chamber ensemble -- are more like Pärt's, so his music at times sounds like an amalgam of the two, but his most effective pieces strike an original path. His Magnificat, for female voice, choir, string orchestra, and harp, is truly astonishing and freshly imagined. Describing it in detail would spoil the experience of hearing it for the first time; it's sufficient to say that it demonstrates the independence and visionary quality of his musical thought. His Regina Coeli is a sassy and exuberant send-up of Renaissance conventions, and it shows a sense of humor not usually associated with Eastern European minimalist-mystics. Godár seems like a composer who's still finding his way; he'll be someone to watch out for if he's able to nourish the unique voice that's now in evidence in his best work.

Godár is fortunate to have an advocate in singer Iva Bittová, whose soulful, folk-inflected voice invests his music with the magic that its simplicity requires in order to fully come alive. The chamber orchestra Solamente Naturali and the Bratislava Conservatory Choir, led by Dusan Bill, turn in pure and committed performances. ECM's sound is immaculate.

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