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Fra Armando PIERUCCI (b. 1935)
De Profundis - Cantata for soprano, chamber choir, string quartet, flute and double bass, (texts: 12 poems by Regina Derieva) ╣
Variations on a Theme of 4th Mode of Alleluia *
Variations on a Theme of Cantata "Via Crucis" *
Chamber Choir "AIDIJA" ╣
Gintaré Skeryté, soprano ╣
Vilnius String Quartet ╣
Giedrius Jakaitis, flute ╣
Augustinas Vasilauskas, double bass ╣
Romualdas Gra×inis, conductor ╣

Fra Armando Pierucci, organ *
Recorded at Tembras Studios Vilnius, Lithuania, August and September 2001 ╣ and St. Saviour's Monastery, Jerusalem, December 1997.*

This is a very unusual disc - the composer is an Italian priest resident in the Holy Land, the texts of the main work are in Russian by a Catholic Russian poet who emigrated to Israel but now lives in Sweden, and it was recorded in Lithuania by artists from that Baltic nation. Despite all this there is very much a real musical identity to what goes on here - the recording is fairly rough and ready, almost unlistenably so in the case of the solo organ pieces, but most of the time the music goes well beyond these confines.

The cantata De Profundis, subtitled rather gloomily The Art of Dying, is conceived for chamber forces and as such has a lightness of tone rarely heard in works of this ilk. The music is neo-classical in style, although I can almost hear Finzi, admittedly at his most Bachian, in the slower sections, with flourishes that may fleetingly remind you of the French religious masterpieces of Fauré, Duruflé etc. The poems used for the text are religious, serious and often rather tragic in nature. A glance at some of the titles will show this - "There are disgusting things, which are impossible to countů" and "The fewer former things" - with subject matter relating indirectly to "the new tragedy of the Palestinian people, amongst which both the poet and the composer have lived for about ten years". No doubt this sort of thing would go down like a lead balloon with the Israeli right wing - no wonder Regina Derieva wasn't granted citizenship there. This music, pleasant and well written though it is, does not match the serious intent of the texts and, though very listenable, tends to water down the message intended. It nevertheless remains an interesting listen.

The remaining pieces are solo organ works, recorded earlier, actually in the Holy Land, with the composer playing. The Alleluia Variations are beautiful, almost folklike, if an organ can be! I was less enamoured with the "Via Crucis" Variations which are based on a theme from Pierucci's previous collaboration with Derieva. The recorded sound is appalling but the first set of variations transcends this because of the quality of the inspiration at work. It is important that this sort of project is released and people are given an opportunity to hear it. It is unlikely to top any charts or win any awards but it speaks of emotions, events and situations unfortunately far more real than the glitz and glam of the mainstream. The performers do the music and its composer full justice and the whole enterprise shines out like a beacon of integrity in the midst of compilation and crossover driven blandout.

Neil Horner

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