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February 4 , 2004

Twenty Years ECM New Series

2004 marks the 20th anniversary of ECM New Series. In September 1984 Manfred Eicher launched an additional label, originally to introduce the work of Arvo Pärt. The aptly-titled “Tabula Rasa” found a response from press, public, and musicians that surpassed all expectation. It was an album that affected changes in the way contemporary music is perceived, and indeed the way it is made. Pärt was not the first composer to be recorded by ECM; Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians”, “Octet/Music for a Large Ensemble/Violin Phase” and “Tehillim”, and Meredith Monk’s “Dolmen Music” and “Turtle Dreams” were all released between 1979 and 1983. But Arvo Pärt’s music, in its silent way standing apart from all ‘modern’ composition, seemed to demand its own platform.
     “I first heard the music of Arvo Pärt on the radio”, Manfred Eicher said in a 1989 interview with the Tages-Anzeiger Zürich, “and at that moment I knew: this should be the beginning of a new series on ECM. What moved me in his music was clarity – the direct path to ear and mind: a drama of quiet passion.”
     In the same interview, Eicher spoke about the future of his label: “I can imagine the New Series in the form of a journey: there is a route mapped out but it is open to contingency; it does not insist on the shortest or the most direct road; it allows for detours that might lead into totally different areas from the original plan. A concept where film, literature, painting and theatre create impulses that suddenly flow into the music.” Many such ‘detours’ have taken place over the years, from Godard’s “Histoire(s) du Cinema” to Bruno Ganz’s reading of Seferis and Eliot, via Eleni Karaindrou’s music for the films of Angelopoulos, while the core of the New Series has been exceptional performances of composed music of the broadest historical scope, from Perotin to Lachenmann…
     2004 begins with typically strong and diverse statements from ECM New Series.

Out now:
     Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian’s “Monodia” with the matchless line-up of Kim Kashkashian, Jan Garbarek, the Hilliard Ensemble, Leonidas Kavakos, Christoph Poppen and the Munich Chamber Orchestra
      “Soir, dit-elle”, second album from the Trio Mediaeval, putting the focus this time on contemporary music, including new work by Gavin Bryars and Ivan Moody.
      “Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Buch I”, Bach’s keyboard masterpiece sensitively interpreted by young Austrian pianist Till Fellner, making his ECM debut.

Coming soon:
     Valentin Silvestrov “Requiem for Larissa”: after the chamber music album “leggiero, pesante” and the orchestral “Postludium/Metamusik” a major work for choir and orchestra, and another clear indication of why Arvo Pärt calls Silvestrov “one of the greatest composers of our time.”
     The Hilliard Ensemble sing the Motets of the great Guillaume de Machaut. In his cycle of motets, Machaut (ca. 1300-1377) used the imagery of love poetry to convey a religious allegory.
     Eleni Karaindrou’s music for Theo Angelopoulos’s “The Weeping Meadow”. The director has said, “Eleni Karaindrou’s music doesn’t accompany the images – it penetrates the images, it becomes an inextricable part of the images. I would say it takes part of what is called anima, so, in the end, you can’t tell one from the other – that’s how closely knit they are... I believe that Eleni is at the moment one of the best existing film musicians in the world”.
     Giya Kancheli’s “Diplipito” and “Valse Boston”. Four years have passed since the Georgian composer’s last ECM release “Magnum Ignotum”, and this disc is eagerly awaited by his many admirers. Soloists include cellist Thomas Demenga and countertenor Derek Lee Ragin. Dennis Russell Davies plays piano and conducts the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.