Latvian Radio Chamber Singers

Rytis Mazulis: Cum Essem Parvulus

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Rytis Mazulis: Cum Essem Parvulus Review

by Uncle Dave Lewis

Latvian composer Rytis Mazulis makes an impressive debut on Cum Essem Parvulis, his debut release on Megadisc featuring the Latvian Radio Chamber Singers under Kaspars Putnins. Cum Essem Parvulis features four works, Canon Solus, Sybilla, the title work for a cappella chorus, and Ajapajapam for the unusual combination of chorus and string quartet, a scoring requirement seldom seen since Saint-Saëns' Oratorio de Noël of 1858. Mazulis is expert at building canonic structures out of short phrases that vary over time, a technique that goes back to the early period of the Renaissance. However, this is not the "high holy minimalism" one associates with Arvo Pärt, rather Mazulis' approach is individual and unique. In Sybilla he piles on layers of women's voices to create a haunting, vocally thick, and unpredictable texture reminiscent of Robert Wylkynson's early fifteenth century motet Jesus Autem transiens, yet his pitch choices result in some hair-raising and unearthly harmonic combinations. Cum Essem Parvulis explores micro-intervallic ideas one would not have thought possible to sing, but the Latvian Radio Chamber Singers manage it both in a professional sense and in imparting an emotional resonance as well. Canon Solus is impressive from its striking white-on-white textures, as well.

Ajapajapam is the most challenging and ambitious work on this program, and to some it will sound like the alarm clock going off and not being able to wake up from a bad dream; it is also the longest piece on the program. Mazulis does not write music for the masses, but he has found a new wrinkle in the fabric of minimalist techniques. Those who follow such musical developments closely will take a strong interest in Cum Essem Parvulis, and some may attain so much enthusiasm for it that they may find it difficult to put down -- it is that good.

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