Uģa Prauliņa mesu un interlūdijas L’homme armé pirmoreiz dzirdēju Latvijas Radio tiešsaistes koncertā 2020. gada Ziemassvētku laikā, šoruden sekoja albuma prezentācija, un tagad arī pats kompaktdisks ar darba vēstījumam labi pieskaņotu Haneles Zanes Putniņas dizainu. Turpretī komponista vēstījums pašlaik ir vēl aktuālāks, nekā divus gadus senā pagātnē, un mesās daudzkārt izmantotā 15. gadsimta franču dziesma “Bruņotais vīrs” liek apcerēt gan vispārcilvēciskas tēmas, gan laikmeta norises. Sākotnējās refleksijas par Okegema daiļradi izaugušas stundu un desmit minūšu ilgā hronometrāžā, un Pētera Vaickovska vadītais ansamblis Ars Antiqua Riga kopā ar trombonistiem Vairi Nartišu, Kasparu Majoru un ērģelnieku Jāni Pelši ir Prauliņa skaņuraksta autentiski atveidotāji – galu galā pats komponists šeit spēlē elektroniskos taustiņinstrumentus. Prauliņam raksturīgā polistilistika ir īsti piemērota šādas ieceres īstenojumam, emocionālais diapazons plešas no skarbi vīrišķīgas izteiksmes līdz meditatīvām ainām, un cikls kopumā saucams par vienu no vērtīgākajiem komponista opusiem. Lai gan šāds apjoms tomēr nav pasargāts no motīvu atkārtošanās, lai gan šī iemesla dēļ atskaņotāji nedaudz pagurst, Prauliņa L’homme armé ieteiktu ievērot arī ārzemju interpretiem un vēl citiem māksliniekiem tepat Latvijā.
Mūzikas Saule Nr. 4 (112) 2022
Uģis Prauliņš sevi kārtējo reizi pierāda kā dažādu stilu un starpstilu meistaru – L’homme armé sevī apvieno dažādu gadsimtu senās mūzikas atskaņas, 20. gadsimta rokmūzikas iespaidus un 21. gadsimta skatījumu. Atsauču klāsts un to hronoloģija reibina. Ieraksts ir krāšņs un bagātīgs. Arī pārsteidzošs, jo katrs nākamais skaņu celiņš izcēlās ar ko jaunu un negaidītu. Citā kontekstā izteiksmes līdzekļu pārsātinātība, iespējams, būtu vērtējama negatīvi, tomēr salīdzinoši veiksmīgi balansē uz šaurās gaumes robežas. Diemžēl manīju pāris tehniskās ķibeles. Ņemot vērā, ka instrumentu sastāvs tembrāli apdzīvo skaņu spektra zemo pusi, dažkārt skanējums šķita pārāk dūmakains un tumšs, ko, iespējams, varētu atrisināt ar balansa meklējumiem pēcapstrādē. Savukārt sestā skaņu celiņa varenība, šķiet, pārsniedza ierakstu sistēmas varēšanu, jo, klausoties austiņās, vērojama nepatīkama čerkstoņa. Citkārt uzmanības lokā nonāca nedaudz latviska franču valodas interpretācija. Tomēr pat tas nemazināja Prauliņa un komandas veikuma spilgtumu un vērtību reliģiskā satura darbu klāstā.
Ernests Valts Circenis
Mūzikas Saule Nr. 4 (112) 2022
Born in Riga in 1957, Uģis Prauliņš is one of Latvia best-known contemporary composers, along with Pēteris Vasks (*1946). Prauliņš became famous above all for his Missa Rigensis, which was premiered in Riga Cathedral in 2003. "Mass and Interludes "L'Homme Armé", the full album title, premiered in 2020. The work was the result of a creative symbiosis between Prauliņš and conductor Pēteris Vaickovskis, who initially invited the composer to write musical commentaries (interludes) on Johannes Ockeghem (c. 1414-1497) mass "L'Homme Armé". The collaboration offered Prauliņš the opportunity to expand the interludes into a mass. The five singers (countertenor, two tenors, baritone, bass) are accompanied by an organ, two sackbuts (a type of medieval trombone) and electronic instruments. The album, which has now been released on the Latvian label Skani, leaves a somewhat ambivalent impression (on me). First the positive: the CD sounds fantastic, and the music gives the impression that it was composed precisely for this medium with its surround sounds and electronic effects (bringing the work live on stage like this certainly requires great effort). The five singers of Ars Antiqua Riga perform magnificently in every respect, but they show their full ability almost more in the quieter a cappella parts of the work, such as in the Agnus Dei, than in the louder passages accompanied by instruments. In other words, this album is a pure feast for the ears, especially since the music has been washed in just about all the waters that music history - from the Renaissance to today - has to offer. However, in combination with the enormous claim that the work makes in Ockeghem slipstream, its eclecticism has a whiff of arts and crafts to my ears. Surely Prauliņš means it when he speaks in the preface to the booklet that we humans are given the choice "between good and evil, life and death, white and black, love and hate". Whether the music lives up to this, however, is a question mark.
Ensemble sound: *****
One of the most frequently quoted melodies in Renaissance history, L’homme armé is a secular song from the Late Middle Ages used in over 40 separate settings of the Ordinary of the Mass. Two masses by Josquin, as well as compositions by Pierre de la Rue, Guillaume Du Fay, Palestrina and other luminaries of the time, have ensured that L’homme armé continues to be remembered and recognized by audiences and aficionados even today.
Rather than simply being an artifact from the past, composers still use this melody in their works, as demonstrated in Ars Antiqua Riga’s recent release of Uģis Prauliņš’ L’homme armé, a time-bending journey through plainchant, Renaissance-style polyphony and modernism. Instead of trying to simply reimagine the historical sounds and styles of previous composers, Prauliņš integrates this immediately recognizable tune into his own inimitable style, incorporating organ, sackbut and electronic instruments to great effect.
To say that Prauliņš’ L’homme armé is a revelation is an understatement, especially when one considers that this work is structured around the Ordinary of the Mass. Unlike Renaissance settings which were restrained by the required inclusion of certain movements, Prauliņš expands the standard structure of the Mass, incorporating additional texts to overcome both the dramatic and temporal limitations of the traditional form.
While much of Prauliņš’ music is “atmospheric,” the aural impact of L’homme armé is stunningly indescribable, and there is not enough space in this review to include a suitable number of superlatives. Ars Antiqua Riga and its director Pēteris Vaickovskis give an extraordinary performance; a treasure for all who appreciate choral music executed at the highest level.
15 December, 2022
Latvian composer Uģis Prauliņš is one of those eclectic postmodern voices who are happy to ignore boundaries of musical genre and historical period, exploring and combining styles ranging from Renaissance polyphony to contemporary rock music. In this regard he was a perfect choice for conductor Pēteris Vaickovskis, whose original invitation was for musical interludes to go with Johannes Ockeghem’s Mass L’homme armé. This sort of thing has been done before, for instance with Paul Hillier and Bengt Sørensen with Ockeghem's Missa pro defuncti, but Prauliņš has taken the process a few steps further in the present production, expanding his interludes to create a new Mass in its own right.
The Mass and Interludes L’homme armé were written for five-voice vocal ensemble Ars Antiqua Riga, alongside organ and sackbuts to enhance the ‘period’ feel, and also involving electronic instruments to create atmospheric soundscapes at certain points in the work.
I'm normally a big sucker for this kind of blend of ancient and modern, and the ASMR-stimulating beauty of the electronics that underly the Introit filled me with hope and interest, despite a rather 1970s keyboard sound. In short, there are good things in L'homme armé, but these good things are too thin to sustain a rather ragged set of 23 tracks over 70 minutes. The familiar ‘l'homme armé’ tune pops up from time as you would expect, and the Kyrie is an encouraging variation on period style. The shorter movements that sound as if they are part of the original collection of interludes work nicely, and the touch of Arvo Pärt in the Absolution embellished with electronics is harmless. Heavy-footed textures plague the music elsewhere however, with the recording sounding as if it has been set at too high a level in places. Some sections have an elemental Carl Orff feel but without his rhythmic bounce, others set up nice ideas that undercut themselves out of duty to the Mass concept, and some just emerge and lie there without much to say at all. Much of the singing is of necessity or design rather shouty and unappealing, the attempt at times to put the voices on the same level as organ and sackbuts not recommendable.
Having lost patience before even reaching halfway with this recording, I had to ask myself why this is the case. There is an element of the theatrical with a good Mass setting, and this work goes some way towards attempting this quality. Without a sense of inevitable flow between moments and of dramatic or emotional climax there is, however, a permanent pall of frustration over the whole project. Harmonic development over the whole is lacking. This is probably another side effect of duty towards period but a missed opportunity to my ears, but you come away with a Scelsi-like impression of a grand work based around a single note. Points of sensitive reflection such as the Beati pauperes are isolated and a bit bland, here again the moment vanishing in medieval meandering and a Swingle Singers 'dum dummm’ conclusion that just has me thinking ‘come on, surely we can do better than this...’
There are some beautiful moments to be found. Pater sanctificetur opens well, but as with most of this music, kicks itself in the heel and falls over all too soon with its ‘oom pah’ organ. The best of the music here is relatively unexplored, being all too keen to grow swiftly into something grand and overly baggy. The Agnus Dei has some true expressive value but doesn't quite hit the spot, and by now we're too worn out by what has gone before - it's too little too late.
The message for this work is laudable: “The Mass and Interludes L’homme armé are about each individual struggles, which often grow into common struggles for all, with victories and defeats, moments of strength and weakness, yet always with an endless desire for peace.” At about 30 minutes shorter and only developing its best ideas this might have been magnificent. As it is, this is an edifice that is unwieldy and annoying, ending up spoiling its vistas rather than enhancing them.
November 28, 2022