KATI AGÓCS: The Debrecen Passion; Requiem Fragments; By the Streams of Babylon; Like Treasure Hidden in a Field; Vessel – Kati Agócs, sop./Lisa Bielawa, sop./Katherine Growdon, mezzo-sop./Margot Rood, sop./Sonja Tengblad, sop./ Lorelei Ensemble/Boston Modern Orchestra Project /Gil Rose – BMOP Sound 1046, 57:00 multichannel SACD (2/02/16) ****:
More outstanding vocal work from this emerging contemporary voice.
The more I hear of Kati Agócs’ music, the more I like it. She has an amazing way of setting texts, both and sacred and other inspirational, and giving them a “modern” but captivating context.
Agócs typically assimilates several different cultural influences and multiple languages into her powerful and attention getting style. A perfect example is the amazing Debrecen Passion. Thematically centered on the work of contemporary Hungarian poet Szilárd Borbély and influenced by the particular qualities of the Hungarian language and culture, The Debrecen Passion takes Christian and humanist texts and utilizes them in a unique read of the Passion story but without the usual voices in roles. In many ways I found this approach both refreshingly different and quite moving. This is a strong, dramatic and, occasionally unsettling work.
Vessel is another polytextual work for three female voices, taking us in a different direction; setting texts by E.E. Cummings, Yehudah Halevi, and Catullus. This work also carries some religious or spiritual connections and is quite beautiful throughout. Each of the works in this collection showcases Agócs’ appreciable ability to write for voice as well as her very personal and skilled awareness of the rich and unusual musical heritage of her Hungarian heritage.
Equally impressive is her setting of Psalm 137, By the Streams of Babylon. This is a brief, straight and altogether beautiful rendition of the famous verse in which Kati and the acclaimed former member of the Philip Glass ensemble, Lisa Bielawa, sing wonderfully.
The other works herein; Requiem Fragments and …Like Treasure Hidden in a Field have some interesting and complex orchestrations in works that are not vocal in nature; yet the spiritual genre is still present. Of those, I was particularly impressed with … Like Treasure … with its movements that refer to the Gospel of Matthew, Mormonism and even eastern mysticism. Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project always give dedicated and inspired performances and the sound quality is excellent as always, especially in surround.
I think Kati Agócs is one of the brightest stars in her generation of composers. I also am a big fan of modern vocalists taking their skills into the compositional realm; this is a fairly recent trend typified by Caroline Shaw and Agócs. I recommend this disc strongly and think that we should all get to know her music more.