This week on the New Canon, we explore vocalises courtesy of Peteris Vasks and his new album, Vox Amoris, which is our current album of the week. With so much emphasis placed on singing solo string lines in Vasks's three new violin works, we complement that articulated expression with music for the human voice.
At the center of the first hour is, oddly enough, a Shostakovich world premiere. In 1932, the composer had been developing an opera called Orango, based on a short story about a man who was half-ape, half-human. While it probably would have landed him in more hot water with the Soviet authorities (and it has been a summer of Shostakovich and his Soviet contemporaries so far, hasn't it?) it was pure timing that derailed Orango. In fact, for decades it was believed that Shostakovich hadn't written a note of the work because the libretto reached him too late in the game, but in 2004 a partial score was discovered in Moscow.
Fast forward to 2012 and we have a vital and virile recording of Orango's Prologue, courtesy of Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, alongside the Los Angeles Master Chorale and a number of soloists. It matches The Nose in absurdity and heart, and is long overdue for a wider audience. We bookend Orango with two choral works by American composer René Clausen, equally adept at massive masses and intimate, youthful works.