Author: Christian Hoskins
Sigvards Kļava’s latest recording with the Latvian Radio Choir features not only first-rate performances of some of Bruckner’s better-known motets but also a number of his infrequently heard early works. Bruckner was working as an assistant teacher in Kronstorf when he wrote the Kronstorfer Mass, also known as the ‘Mass without Gloria and Credo’, some time during 1843 and 1844. Lasting only six minutes, this melodious, contemplative work finds the composer, not yet 21, confidently writing for unaccompanied voices and experimenting with unorthodox modulations. The lively and warm-hearted Libera me in F, composed for choir and organ, also dates from this time. The collection also includes four different versions of Tantum ergo, including the C major setting from the set of four designated WAB41, completed by Bruckner in 1846 at the beginning of his stay at St Florian Monastery.
The remainder of the collection comprises works from Bruckner’s maturity, ranging from the exquisite Ave Maria of 1861 to the last of the motets, Vexilla regis, completed in 1892. These pieces have been recorded multiple times before, but the unforced natural expressivity of the singing as well as the accuracy of the intonation at all dynamic levels puts this new version very near the top of the list. Among the finest of the performances is that of Tota pulchra es, which communicates a feeling of ineffable timelessness at the opening as well as a sense of tremendous majesty at the organ-supported climax. Similarly impressive is the account of Virga Jesse, with its ethereal calls of ‘in se’ sung by the sopranos and gently echoed by the rest of the choir. Moments such as these linger long in the memory. The excellent recording, made in Riga Cathedral, suits the performances perfectly.