Andreas Delfs

Roberto Sierra: Missa Latina 'Pro Pace'

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The National Symphony Orchestra commissioned a mass from Roberto Sierra, and the work he produced is dedicated "Pro Pace," in response to global turmoil. It's an approachable and ingratiating work, with a strong sense of lyricism, rhythmic energy, and a warm harmonic palette. Sierra incorporates moments with a distinctly Latinate, Caribbean flavor, as he does in many of his works. His treatment of the text and form of the mass is fairly conventional, though, and while it has an easy appeal, it's hard to avoid the sense that Sierra is playing it safe, that he is pulling back from the edginess that is part of the appeal of some of his other work. It could be argued that he is simply adapting to the essentially traditional approach of some of the great masses of Western music, but the result, while frequently lovely and engaging, lacks a coherently articulated broad musical architecture. In this regard, the 20-minute, single-movement Credo is particularly problematic. The most successful is the melodically straightforward, rhythmically charged Sanctus. The performance is first-rate, with soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and baritone Nathaniel Webster capably handling their large roles. Andreas Delfs leads the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus and Orchestra in committed performances. Naxos' sound is a little dense, but the balance is good.

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