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AN IMPOSINGLY ORIGINAL 20TH CENTURY CHORAL WORK
Melvyn M. Sobel | Freeport (Long Island), New York | 01/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Chesky's THE AGNOSTIC is an impassioned work, its musical architecture spanning eleven daringly original sections, the libretto (by Chesky, as well) searching, probing, disturbing, yet ultimately liberating. Again Chesky makes us marvel at his complete musical concentration: the sublime use of pathos in hushed interludes and antiphonal passages, the superb control of orchestral dynamics, the manifestation of a new and totally absorbing lyricism throughout.
For Chesky, tragedy becomes counterpoint to tranquility.
THE AGNOSTIC has the power to transform. Although not strictly liturgical, its roots burrow deeply into the same ground; and the message, in oratorio setting, although diametrically opposite, becomes transmogrified and, therefore, incredibly similar. There is much here to wonder at and to meditate on.
And, again, I cannot emphasize enough just how beautiful, graceful and life-affirming this work is. Strikingly so. Chesky's use of orchestral mood, color, tangibility are impressive; the vocal writing, in turns, subtle and majestic, but always profound. It's all thrillingly wrought by an obviously gifted and consummate composer.
Conductor Somary makes THE AGNOSTIC an even more gripping work: his leadership is flawless, and the Slovak Philharmonic, excellent, as is the Slovak Phil Chorus (under Choir Master Jan Rozehnal). Everything is superbly integrated to form a deeply moving, vibrant whole. The recorded sound, too, is full and rich, yet detailed and intimate. Special mention and kudos, as well, to soloists Hana Stolfova-Bandova (Alto) and Jan Durco (Baritone).
[Running time: 70:41]