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"AN IRIDESCENT WONDER" - GRAMOPHONE
The music of Kati Agócs has been honored and performed worldwide, delivering both visceral power and otherworldly lyricism with soulful directness. From folk music of an imaginary culture to volatile spectralism, polytextual vocal ensembles to large symphonic forces, her work embraces the 21st-century orchestra in all of its protean possibilities. The Boston Globe has praised its elegance, citing “music of fluidity and austere beauty” with “a visceral intensity of expression” and encouraging audience members to "go, listen, and be changed." The New York Times has characterized her chamber music as “striking” and her vocal music as possessing “an almost nineteenth-century naturalness.” A recent Guggenheim Fellow, she is also a winner of the prestigious Arts and Letters Award, the lifetime achievement award in music composition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Debrecen Passion, her album with Boston Modern Orchestra Project, is one of The Boston Globe’s Top Ten Classical Recordings of 2016. The title track was nominated for Classical Composition of the Year in the 2017 Juno Awards by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In the U.K., MusicWeb International celebrated the CD as a Recording of the Year, calling it "highly imaginative and compelling." Reviewing the CD, Audiophile Audition named Kati Agócs “one of the brightest stars in her generation of composers.”
Gramophone Magazine reviews the album The Debrecen Passion: "an iridescent wonder...penetrating individuality....vocal and instrumental splendour....evokes specific sacred texts or implications to haunting impact....a composer of imposing artistic gifts"
The Debrecen Passion is on the The Boston Globe's list of the Top Ten Classical Albums of 2016: "sublime....a mystical confluence of the sacred and secular illuminated by the superb Lorelei Ensemble and BMOP"
The Debrecen Passion is a 2016 MusicWeb International Recording of the Year: "highly imaginative and compelling"
U.S. premiere of Tantric Variations at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. on Stradivari instruments by the Cecilia String Quartet: Listen to the performance on demand via WQXR/Read the writeup in the Washington Post
Boston Globe profile on The Debrecen Passion premiere
Review of Toronto Symphony Orchestra performance of Perpetual Summer by Ontario Arts Review: "Gripping...an ideal choice as the overture for the evening's program"
Boston Globe review of portrait concert in Jordan Hall, Boston: "Hub New Music transports with all-Kati Agócs program"
Boston Musical Intelligencer review of Kati Agócs portrait concert in Jordan Hall, Boston: "Stunningly varied works that clearly emerge from a single personality...a distinct voice that is challenging without being elusive... an unshakable emotional core"
The Debrecen Passion is New York's WQXR Q2 Album of the Week: "high-craft, high-drama music...hurtles themes of love and devotion through a particularly intense prism of influences and language"
WBUR ARTery reviews The Debrecen Passion: "starkly beautiful solo sections, duos, and trios...the feeling is religious, deeply spiritual, but it's the sound that tells you this, not the words"
Audiophile Audition reviews The Debrecen Passion: "One of the brightest stars in her generation of composers.."
Boston Musical Intelligencer Interview with Kati Agócs
AGÓCS - THE DEBRECEN PASSION
The music of Kati Agócs on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s new recording shimmers and seethes, reflecting the tensions that the Canadian composer sets forth in vocal and instrumental splendour. Each of the five works possesses a sound world that evokes the specific sacred texts or implications to haunting impact.
Agócs pays tribute to her Hungarian heritage in the disc’s titular score, The Debrecen Passion, a setting of Christ’s persecution and death built around verses by the poet Szilárd Borbély (1963-2014), a native of the Hungarian city of Debrecen. As she melds the 12 female voices of the remarkable Lorelei Ensemble with glowing orchestral sonorities, Agócs also suspends vocal lines on Latin and Jewish texts. The 23‑minute work is an iridescent wonder.
Agócs shares more of her bold sense of colour and architecture in the other pieces, including two for orchestra alone. Requiem Fragments evolves from peaceful to anguished episodes through seamless interweaving of incandescent themes. A different array of spiritual moods unfolds in … Like Treasure Hidden in a Field, which highlights Agócs’s keen ear for instrumental possibilities.
Voices again collaborate with orchestra in By the Streams of Babylon, with two sopranos (Agócs and Lisa Bielawa) lifting Psalm 137 on phrases that leap and float, and sound both ancient and contemporary. Vessel exemplifies the composer’s penetrating individuality in a work set in English, Hebrew and Latin scored for chamber ensemble, two sopranos and alto (Margot Rood, Sonja Tengblad and Katherine Growdon).
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project and conductor Gil Rose invest each score with incisive and brilliant intensity, as do all of the vocalists. They should continue to champion Agócs, a composer of imposing artistic gifts.
- DONALD ROSENBERG (OCTOBER 2017)