The Hungarian composer and pianist Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer from the Serbian province of Vojvodina has written eight hymns in commemoration of the film director Andrei Tarkovsky, an artist he has called a homo moralis whose remarkable visions cast a small but significant light on the tragic world of the previous century. The Georgian composer Giya Kancheli has written a silent prayer for two dear friends: the cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and the violinist Gidon Kremer. The meditative emotionality of the hymns and the ascetic tranquility of the prayer are offset by César Franck‘s Piano Quintet in F minor like a premonition of Beethoven’s Appassionata, whose second movement, marked Lento, molto sentimento, in turn takes up the mood of the other two works. This combination does more than provide a superficial contrast: it is beholden to an intrinsic principle of the sort that the painter Paul Klee developed in his theory of harmony in the visual arts: any compositional harmony will gain character through dissonances, with the balance being restored by counterweights. (from the liner notes)
This album “Hymns and Prayers” from master violinist Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica spans a characteristically wide range of music, from the spirited to the spiritual, all of it broached with conviction. The three featured works were recorded in 2008 at the Lockenhaus Festival, that annual event which ECM helped to put on the map a quarter-century ago, when Kremer and producer Manfred Eicher introduced the Edition Lockenhaus on ECM New Series.
Intensity and concentration, differently calibrated, are the watchwords here. At the centre of this disc is César Franck’s piano quintet, a work which ranks alongside the Brahms Quintet as one of the outstanding – and technically daunting – works of the late 19th century. It is a work that Gidon Kremer holds in special affection: it was one of the first pieces of chamber music in his own repertoire, and he performed it in Latvia when he was 16.
Kremer and Giya Kancheli have a long association that has already resulted in several recordings on ECM, including “Lament: Music of Mourning in Memory of Luigi Nono” (recorded 1998) and “Time...and Again” (1999) and “V & V” (2000) on the album “In l'istesso tempo”.
"Silent Prayer" was composed on the occasion of the 80th birthday of Mstislav Rostropovich and the 60th birthday of Gidon Kremer in 2007. After Rostropovich’s death that same year, the composer entitled the just-finished work "Silent Prayer." The world premiere took place on 7 October 2007 at the Kronberg Cello Festival which was dedicated to the memory of the late virtuoso, with Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica.
Kremerata Baltica will again be performing Kancheli’s “Silent Prayer” on their North America tour this autumn. Earlier performances have been much praised by critics. “The spare and ruminative music seems to drift off the stage with infinite slowness, like a mist. Kremer and his colleague, floating wispy lines from the highest reaches of their instruments, were compelling guides to this ethereal landscape”, wrote Jeremy Eichler in the Boston Globe.
Long a champion of original compositional voices, Kremer here presents also music of Stevan Tickmayer, born in the former Yugoslavia in 1963, and currently a resident of France. A musician of diverse background, Tickmayer has been studying with Kurtág since the mid-90s, and has had his own work played by ensembles from the Netherlands Wind Ensemble to the Moscow Soloists – but he has also collaborated with improvisers and avant-rock players including Chris Cutler, Fred Frith and Peter Kowald. On Kremer’s invitation he was composer in residence at Lockenhaus in 2003 and 2009.
Tickmayer began his “Eight Hymns” in December 1986, on learning of the death of his favourite filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky, and played the (unfinished) work in his solo concerts for several years. He revised it in 2003 after working with the musicians of the Kremerata, “the ideal messengers” – given their Eastern European backgrounds – for this musical mourning. The “Eight Hymns” is the first recording of Tickmayer’s music on ECM.
Gidon Kremer’s relationship with ECM dates back to Arvo Pärt’s album “Tabula Rasa”. This was followed by several volumes of live recordings from his famous Lockenhaus festival. Kremer’s second recording of the complete sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin by Bach, released in 2005 on ECM New Series, met with unanimous international acclaim. Kremerata Baltica which first appeared on ECM on the Kancheli record “In l’istesso tempo” (2005) made its official label debut in the same year with a highly original interpretation of Schubert’s G-major string quartet.
Founded in 1997 by Gidon Kremer, the Grammy-award winning chamber orchestra is one of the outstanding ensembles in Europe and beyond. Although it originally began as a "present to myself" to celebrate his 50th birthday in 1997, Gidon Kremer soon realized the potential of this ensemble of young musicians from the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as a medium with which to share artistic experiences, and, at the same time, to promote and inspire the musical and cultural life of the Baltics.