SOPHIA SERGHI, “Night of Light” = Night of Light; Ikon; Fall Moon Haiku; Cantus Integritatis; Night of Light (reprise) – Alena Hellerova, Lucie Silkenova, soprano/Eliska Weissova, mezzo soprano/Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Vit Micka, conductor– Navona Records NV5866, 41:49 (Distr. by Naxos) ****:
Sophia Serghi, of Cyprus, Greece, was trained in Greece as well as in the United States and has, for several years, served on the music faculty of the College of William and Mary, Virginia. She is the recipient of many awards including the Fulbright and Mellon Fellowships and the Whittaker award from the American Composers Orchestra. Additionally, she has been recognized in her native land as recipient of competition awards from the Athens Concert Hall Greek Composers and the Cyprus State Orchestra.
The works included here are quite beautiful, spiritual and reflective. Each also reflects the composer’s use of her own poetry to evoke a musical response, frequently religious in their origin and impact. The music is very attention getting, right from the title work, Night of Light. This very meditative work for soprano and orchestra is a reflection of Serghi’s experience of Easter in Manhattan, compared to that of her native Cyprus. There is a longing in this music and a kind of sad beauty. Alena Hellerova performs wonderfully. The composer indicates that the work is dedicated to her mother, Lenia Serghi. The subsequent work, Ikon, is in a similar vein. Inspired by the mood evoked by an Orthodox icon (ikon) seen in Paris, this work too has a religious tone to it and a kind of turmoil reflected in the somewhat urgent para-minimalist string writing. Serghi writes her own texts and poetry by and large and the mystery of the subject matter in both of these works is carried forth well in the music.
Full Moon Haiku is the product of a collaboration between Serghi and poet Nancy Schoenberger and is very pleasant work that reflects on the moods and imagery to be found in a full moon. In this case, the soprano voice – frequently an important role in Serghi’s music – is that of Lucie Silkenova and provides just the right ethereal qualities to this lovely but somewhat urgent score.
Cantus Integritatis is based on the composer’s own Latin poetry. There is a very plaintive tone to this work carried from the outset by the deep mezzo of Eliska Weissova; joined by soprano Lucie Silkenova. The texts are essentially about one’s purification through meditation or, perhaps, apology or at least the “lure of” purification – reflected in the section titles as well. Like the other works in this collection, there really is a plaintive, yearning quality to this work. Filled with a kind of sad but restful tone, Cantus Integratitis is an often-performed work by Serghi and it is easy to see why.
This fascinating collection concludes with an abbreviated “reprise” of Night of Light. Sophia Serghi’s music is soulful and easy to listen to but with a depth of feeling and meaning that implies some deep, spiritual and reflective input from this composer into her music. Serghi came to the United States to further her craft as a composer and has built a very nice reputation through her teaching and through works like these. I was quite glad to get to know her music and look forward to hearing more. Kudos, again, to Navona for being able to use the skills of Vit Micka and the Moravian Philharmonic to bring us music by lesser known artists. Their packaging is once again top notch with the CD being interactive and providing score samples, additional information and the like.
Serghi’s music has some of Greece and some deep searching tones within and I should imagine that any listener would find something in these beautiful yearning pieces.
Historic renderings of music from France