Footprint presents more landmark recordings from the vaults of Sweden’s legendary audiophile label Opus 3, with this third release in the series finding the Czech composer Peter Eben in celebratory mood.
On 29 December 1989, 41 years of one-party rule finally came to an end in Eben’s beloved Czechoslovakia. Two days later, Eben sat down to write an ‘act of thanksgiving’, his setting of the hymn Te Deum for choir, brass and percussion that journeys from the rooted to the angelic to the dramatic. This 1994 recording of Eben’s work from the Varberg Chamber Choir conducted by Eben devotee Johannes Landgren radiates the joy of liberation.
The same forces give a heartfelt account of Eben’s antiphon for five-part choir Ubi Caritas et amor, a text the devout catholic described as ‘the kernel of all religion.’ Not so meditative but filled with temperament and emotion is Eben’s setting of another central Christian text, the Salve Regina, in which the composer uses the voices of his choir to take listeners from the depths of the valley of tears to the heights of divine fanfares.
Eben’s distinctive, spicy musical voice is exposed to thrilling effect in two works rooted on the organ: his Three Jubilations for organ and brass, taken from a jubilant mass rooted in plainsong and folksong, and his rhythmic tour-de-force for solo organ inspired by biblical instances of dancing, the unparalleled Five Biblical Dances. Once more, Per Sjösten’s fine re-masterings from Opus 3’s original 1994 tapes render this exceptional and colourful music as fresh as paint.
- Andrew Mellor