Ákos Rózmann's Mass consists of twelve electroacoustic compositions created between 1989 and 2004 in the composer's studio and at EMS in Stockholm. Like most of Rózmann's compositions, Mass is a long-form work with a duration of around seven hours.
We can describe Rózmann's Mass as an enormous fresco of personal observations on the two first parts of the Catholic Mass, Kyrie and Gloria. The intensely subjective perspective on the texts of the Mass is underlined by Rózmann's freezing images – in his own words – "tropes", i.e. meditations in Swedish, Hungarian and Latin over particular words in the mass text or connection to it. A few passages have nothing to do with the mass text: Organ piece VI in Gloria I (also performed with the subtitle Nocturne in silver and dance) is a sort of lament based on the phrase "Natten gråter" (the night is crying). We find the composer's peculiar sense of humour in the intermezzo following Gloria I – a composed version of the intermission common in Swedish concert houses, complete with clashing coffee cups and empty chatter from the bureaucratic music establishment.
The overarching formal structure of Mass is an intricate one, with the various parts functioning simultaneously as independent pieces and as parts of sub-groups within the whole structure of the piece. As independent pieces, some of them go under the name Organ piece. For example, the three pieces included in the first Gloria part of mass form another independent composition named Triptykon, first performed as a separate work in 1996.
In the earlier parts of Mass, a battle fought between Positive forces is represented by the words in the Mass text and Negative forces represented by various challenging sounds, such as scornful laughter, grunts, burps, nauseous choking and vomiting sounds. First, the Negative powers drag down the Positive forces into a "black hole" or in pockets. Then the Positive forces return to dominate the remaining parts of Gloria. This formal narrative is nuanced by the composer, who, in interviews, offer a less dualistic, more complex viewpoint on the conflict central to the Mass:
"It's presumable that everything in the general sense is about the notion of positive or negative because everything in the world is structured like that. But it's not that simple in the Triptych [the first three pieces of the Gloria-cycle]. Different forces stand against each other, but their interrelation is more complex than that of good and evil."
The most prominent sound sources in the work are the organ, a Hungarian zither and human voices. Throughout the whole piece, there is a vocal group from a village church in Corsica, singing the Latin mass texts solo and chorally. Other participants are Schola Gregoriana Holmiae under the direction of Viveca Servatius, a group of German Benedictine monks and—in the role of a sort of master of ceremonies, Thomas Hammar.
7 CDs packaged in a hardcover slipcase with a pull ribbon, 12 and 20 pages booklets. Boxset contains an extensive essay on the composition by Gergely Loch and additional texts by Göran Bergendal and Mats Lindström, and visual documentation.
Ákos Rózmann (1939-2005) was an Hungarian-Swedish composer of experimental electronic and electroacoustic music. Born in Budapest, Hungary, he studied composition at the Bartók Conservatory and the Liszt Academy. In 1971 he received a scholarship to come to Stockholm and completed his compositional studies with Ingvar Lidholm at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and then settled down in Sweden. He was the organist at the Catholic Cathedral in Stockholm for a long time. His early encounter with electroacoustic music gave a new direction to his composing. Except for a few early pieces, Rózmann composed solely electroacoustic music—often preferring a monumental form, usually with the organ and the human voice as the most crucial sound sources in a complex, penetrating musical language loaded with symbols. As a composer, he worked involuntary seclusion, uncompromisingly and with great originality. Rózmann's music is about the fundamental questions of existence, often on an ethical or religious (Catholic or Buddhist) basis, for example, in the enormous suites Images of the Dream and Death and Twelve Stations.
"The lingering feeling after hearing the works of Ákos Rózmann is the intangibility of naming what that lingering feeling is. Anyone who hears his music is moved, in as many ways possible, but why they have been moved and where to, is as difﬁcult to put a ﬁnger on as to catch a small ﬂeck in a bowl of water, always in sight, but forever slipping from our grasp."—Jim O'Rourke