Sunday, January 15, 2006

From the theatre of the synagogue

A musical polyglot who embraces everything from klezmer to tango, Argentine-born Osvaldo Golijov (right) is a composer with the rare ability to excite both critics and ordinary concertgoers. A fine example of this talent is his seminal work, “La Pasión Según San Marcos”, which sets the story of Jesus's crucifixion in contemporary Latin America. He invites his listeners to a jubilant Latin carnival, with blaring trumpets, hypnotic percussion, infectious samba and mambo rhythms. Along the way, ecstatic choruses, Gregorian chant and mournful Brazilian ballades wind towards the Kaddish, a fitting way for a Jewish composer to conclude a piece based on the Book of Mark.

This magnificent piece, which will be a highlight of the month-long festival to honour Mr Golijov that opens at Lincoln Centre in New York on January 22nd, was commissioned by Helmuth Rilling, a conductor, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Bach's death in 2000. In less capable hands, a large-scale work featuring flamenco, tango, Yiddish melismas and Gregorian chant—using an eclectic range of performers from violinists to Cuban drummers—would be a disjointed, multicultural mishmash. In fact it works brilliantly. Composers often borrow from indigenous traditions, but Mr Golijov preserves disparate musical identities within a tight narrative framework. He explains that people want to hear a story, so, for example, he uses flamenco—the music of the Spanish conquistadors—to represent Jesus's betrayal

From this week's The Economist

With thanks to reader Bernard Tuyttens for this story.
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Pliable said...

Osvaldo Golijov's “La Pasión Según San Marcos” (St Mark Passion) is available as a commercial recording, follow this link.

ACB said...

It will also be re-recorded in March by Deutsche Grammophon, who is recording most of Golijov's works this year. I expect it will be released in the fall.

Mr. OGP, are you in or near London? There will be a performance of La Pasion at the Barbican on Feb. 24th (featuring Yours Truly). If you can attend, I highly recommend it. It is a work that should be seen live.