This explains a great deal when one listens to the piece. The first time I played it, I was also reading, and kept wondering why the choral sections were so quiet in comparison to the music. Once I read Sofia’s notes, it all made sense. The texts are presented in their original Italian form, but the booklet thankfully translates the words into English as well.
As the composer indicates, the whole of "Canticle of the Sun" is much more devoted to the musical than the textual. In fact, the piece was inspired, and dedicated to “the greatest cellist of the twentieth century, Mstislav Rostropovich.” There are certainly percussive moments of punctuation, and the choir has already been mentioned. But this composition is dominated by the beautiful violoncello work of Nicolas Alstaedt.
I must confess that the various artists Manfred Eicher records for his ECM New Series have led me into a deep appreciation for classical music, both the “old masters,” and some contemporary composers. Canticle of the Sun powerfully represents one of the reasons for this. I have listened to it numerous times already, and will continue to.
But I wonder if I will ever “get to the bottom” of it. I understand the basics of music theory, and even play a bit of guitar. The compositions of Sofia Gubaidulina, and these Lockenhaus performances are so far above my rudimentary knowledge, however, that I can only listen in amazement. Canticle of the Sun represents the very best in modern classical music. This release is as fine an example of what the ECM New Series does best as anyone could ask for.