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Ralf Yusuf Gawlick (b.1969): Mass for the Human Race - 8-voice a capella mass / Choir of Trinity Wall Street

Album Summary

>Gawlick, Ralf Yusif : Missa gentis humanæ, for double chorus, Op. 16
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Ralf Yusuf Gawlick's bold and original "Mass for the Human Race" Missa Gentis Humanæ blends the Latin Mass Ordinary with passages from Borges, Virgil, Brecht, Zbigniew Herbert, Dostoevsky, Plautus, Walter Scott and the Gospel According to St. John - in an 8-voice a cappella setting, recorded by select voices from the celebrated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, conducted by Julian Wachner. This work juxtaposes diverse multilingual texts, illustrating the global human element of faith, with roots in the past and its future illuminated through contemporary experience. Recorded in the famous acoustics of Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, MA, where many Musica Omnia releases have been made. Booklet includes a comprehensive "listener's guide" of texts, transliteration and easy-to-follow English translation.

American Record Guide, March/April 2015
Missa Gentis Humanae is an a cappella mass for eight voices, and Gawlick follows the relatively recent path for masses - mixing in other texts. He uses his wife's name to determine pitches, and in the Introit the choir hums those notes, then sings them in Hebrew letters and then in Greek. Christ's "new commandment" to love one another as He has loved us is sung in Greek and then Latin, and that leads to an "alleluia" and into the Kyrie. Jorge Luis Borges, Virgil, Brecht, Zbigniew Herbert, Dostoevsky, and Walter Scott have their words, in their original languages, sewn into the fabric. The mass is skillfully written, reverent, completely without artifice, and quite effective. The choir is flawless, and the sound is clear. Easy-on-the-ears modern choral music has a place - a challenging, sometimes exacting work of greatness.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, MA (02/16/2014-02/18/2014).


Very unusual but very interesting
The "Missa gentis humane" or 'word made flesh' is a Christian setting of the belief in Jesus as Messiah, of course, but in this case, German composer Ralf Yusuf Gawlick has taken the Latin Mass on this subject and interspersed it with a very diverse set of text sources. One of the main devices used here is that Gawlick dedicated the composition of this piece to his wife, Basia, the spelling of whose name can be transcribed into the German names for pitches ("B" as B-flat, "As" as A-flat, and so forth) These in turn are turned into the first letters of the Hebrew alphabet and hummed or intoned by the chorus. Gawlick's composition is also presented as a "Mass for the Human Race" and utilizes text from poetry by Jorge Luis Borges, the Eclogues of Virgil, essays by Bertold Brecht and even extracts from Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov". In many ways, this highly eclectic set of sources and the symbolism or implication behind choosing them is a little bit of a mess. It seems almost too random to bear a clear rationale, besides whatever the meaning is to Gawlick, himself, or his wife. So instead we should focus on the music. This is a pleasant, frequently pretty work that really does "old" and Eccliastic in its sounds; not "modern" at all. This is also a fairly small-scale work; sung by the eight member Trinity Wall Street (cathedral) chorale, conducted by Julian Wachner. The singers are quite good and the work is attractive in a way that resembles old style polyphony. I recommend this as a pleasant piece of choral writing; not for any particular profundity. There is nothing to dislike here but I would certainly like other varied examples of Gawlick's composition to get a more complete picture of his talents and style. I would like to hear his "Kinderkreuzzug" for children's chorus; for example.
Submitted on 08/27/14 by Dan Coombs 
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Works Details

>Gawlick, Ralf Yusif : Missa gentis humanæ, for double chorus, Op. 16
  • Conductor: Julian Wachner
  • Ensemble: Choir of Trinity Wall Street
  • Notes: Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, MA (02/16/2014-02/18/2014)
  • Running Time: 51 min. 36 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary