AGÓCS The Debrecen Passion
The music of Kati Agócs on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s new recording shimmers and seethes, reflecting the tensions that the Canadian composer sets forth in vocal and instrumental splendour. Each of the five works possesses a sound world that evokes the specific sacred texts or implications to haunting impact.
Agócs pays tribute to her Hungarian heritage in the disc’s titular score, The Debrecen Passion, a setting of Christ’s persecution and death built around verses by the poet Szilárd Borbély (1963-2014), a native of the Hungarian city of Debrecen. As she melds the 12 female voices of the remarkable Lorelei Ensemble with glowing orchestral sonorities, Agócs also suspends vocal lines on Latin and Jewish texts. The 23‑minute work is an iridescent wonder.
Agócs shares more of her bold sense of colour and architecture in the other pieces, including two for orchestra alone. Requiem Fragments evolves from peaceful to anguished episodes through seamless interweaving of incandescent themes. A different array of spiritual moods unfolds in … Like Treasure Hidden in a Field, which highlights Agócs’s keen ear for instrumental possibilities.
Voices again collaborate with orchestra in By the Streams of Babylon, with two sopranos (Agócs and Lisa Bielawa) lifting Psalm 137 on phrases that leap and float, and sound both ancient and contemporary. Vessel exemplifies the composer’s penetrating individuality in a work set in English, Hebrew and Latin scored for chamber ensemble, two sopranos and alto (Margot Rood, Sonja Tengblad and Katherine Growdon).
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project and conductor Gil Rose invest each score with incisive and brilliant intensity, as do all of the vocalists. They should continue to champion Agócs, a composer of imposing artistic gifts.