Petrassi_Magnificat; Psalm IX
Goffredo Petrassi’s range as a composer was far wider than his eight Concertos for Orchestra (8/05) might suggest, encompassing opera, ballet, solo concertos, chamber and instrumental pieces. His substantial body of vocal and choral music contains some of his finest inspirations, not least the classic Coro di morte (at one time available from Adès).
Psalm IX (1934-36) and the Magnificat (1939-40) are relatively early, still betraying Stravinsky’s influence, but between them one can hear Petrassi’s own voice emerging. In Psalm IX – scored for chorus, string orchestra, brass, percussion and two pianos, and begun just after the First Orchestral Concerto – the impact of the then still very new Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms is palpable, particularly in the hieratic choral writing. Not quite, perhaps, the sum of its parts, it packs quite a punch nevertheless. The Magnificat is altogether slicker and freer stylistically, its opening orchestral episode having a spring in its step redolent of top-quality Martin≤ with more characteristic choral writing.
The performances by the forces of Teatro Regio, Turin, are committed and persuasive, though both works sound like they need a little more ‘living with’. Soprano Sabina Cvilak is taxed at times by Petrassi’s tough, high vocal lines but otherwise hers is a gutsy account. Excellent sound makes this a thoroughly recommendable release and I hope Chandos and Noseda go on to give us more choral Petrassi, such as Coro di morte and the late Orationes Christi.