Naxos American Classics Releases Missa Latina by Roberto Sierra

When Roberto Sierra’s Missa Latin ‘Pro Pace’ first premiered in February 2006, Washington Post critic Tim Page wrote: “Missa Latina is filled with juicy tunes, pulsating rhythms, tender writing for its vocal soloists and jubilant exclamations for chorus. It is unapologetically accessible-tonal, melodic and, for much of its duration, endowed with a good solid beat-yet it never seems to be pandering. No, the Missa Latina is remarkably organic in its expression: if it is music that sets out to be liked-perhaps loved-it is also a unified and, one suspects, deeply felt utterance of the heart.” The work was a co-commission by the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, DC, directed by Leonard Slatkin. The recording features Andreas Delfs conducting the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus and Orchestra and the soloists from the premiere performance: soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and baritone Nathaniel Webster.

Missa Latin ‘Pro Pace’ is suffused with Mr. Sierra’s experience of growing up a Catholic in Puerto Rico. He notes: “I still recall vividly hearing the Mass in Latin in my hometown when I was a child. These memories created a strong impression-one that has only deepened through the years: a sense of mystery combined with power and compassion in hearing Gregorian chant intoned by the priest in a ritual involving this ‘dead’ language.” He explains that the work’s title “has dual meaning. On the one hand it refers to the traditional Latin text, while on the other hand the work is infused with a ‘Latino’ character: full of Caribbean gestures that allude to my own Hispanic heritage, and which are present in so many of my works. These sounds can be heard particularly in the Laudamus te of the Gloria and the Pleni sunt caeli of the Sanctus.”