This ambitious work came into being as a commission from the Lutheran and Evangelical parishes of Jyväskylä for a large-scale piece of music to mark the year 2000; Pekka Kostianen (b. 1944) responded with this Triduum Paschale. As the title suggests, it’s in three parts – two Masses (a Missa Viridium and a Missa Paschalis) surrounding a Passion based on the Gospel of Good Friday according to St Luke.
Pekka Kostianen was careful to produce music within the range of the amateur forces which intended to perform it: the choral and orchestral textures are straightforward, the contrapuntal demands moderate, the rhythms generally predictable, the harmonies tonal, even modal.
Of course, since the Missa Viridium is intended to be sung on Maundy Thursday, the Passion on Good Friday and the Missa Paschalis, obviously, on Easter Sunday, each part will normally be set in relief, and its cumulative effect rather different from listening to it end to end as a recording. And there are moments, when Kostiainen does things that give the ears a good tweak: one striking passage has minimalist oscillating flutes above a lyrical cello line; at another point a saxophone emerges unexpectedly from the orchestra; and the bells and trumpets that open the Missa Paschalis, and the passage for baritone and chorus that they introduce, recall Kokkonen’s The Last Temptations directly.
Indeed, there’s a celebratory quality to the Missa Paschalis – more of those bells and trumpets – and more of the textural variety I missed in the two earlier parts; to my surprise, there are sections that recall Carmina Burana in their deliberate gruffness, and the choral evocations of plainchant do bring some rhythmic vigour. The jubilant final movement then blends dancing rhythms and a contrapuntal vivacity that Kostianen had obviously been keeping up his sleeve until now.
This recording, in keeping with the origins of the work, has a slightly amateur quality: there are non-professional voices in the Musica Choir, which robs it of an edge; and the soloists are adequate rather than outstanding. Ville Matvejeff makes the most of Kostianen’s dramatic passages in the first two sections, and you can sense him opening up the throttle when he gets to the Missa Paschalis, which is qualitatively far superior to the music that precedes it.
Kostiainen: Triduum Paschale
Kaisa Ranta (soprano), Minja Niiranen (soprano), Jeni Packalen (mezzo-soprano), Simo Mäkinen (tenor), Tapani Plathan (bass); Musica Choir; Jyväskylä Sinfonia and St Michel Strings; cond. Ville Matvejeff
Alba ABCD 455 1–2