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October 14 , 2011

Reviews of the Week

The recording Music of Georges I. Gurdieff receives more outstanding reviews. Simon Broughton from Songlines calls the recording a "fabulous collection of Armenian and Middle Eastern folk music with a fascinating story behind it". Furthermore he writes: "The tunes were composed by Georges Gurdjieff, best known as a mystic philosopher and author of Meetings with Remarkable Men, turned into a film by Peter Brook. But Gurdjieff was also a composer who dictated his music to his pupil Thomas de Hartmann (presumably because he was unable to notate it himself). Gurdjieff was born in Armenia, but travelled widely in the Middle East and became fascinated with the traditional music he heard. In 1920 he was in Istanbul, living close to the Mevlevi meeting place in Galata and `Sayyid Chant and Dance No 29´ on this disc is very reminiscent of the Whirling Dervish music he would have heard there. So this CD is a something like what Muzsiás did on their Bartók Album, using his compositions to recreate the sort of music he would have heard and collected. It´s been arranged by Levon Eskenian for his Yerevan-based group called The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble including plaintive duduks (Armenian oboes), oud (lute), tar (lute), kamancheh (fiddle), kanun (zither), blul (flute) and tombak (drum). A lot of the music comes from Gurdjieff´s native Armenia, notably the opening `Chant from a Holy Book´, a plangent, spiritual duduk tune and a gorgeous Armenian song. Another track named `Assyrian Women Mourners´ is arranged for four duduks and frame drum, confirming what Djivan Gasparyan once told me about duduks being used for funerals in Armenia. Two of the most delightful tracks are enigmatically called `No.11´ and `No.40, arrangements from a collection called `Asian Songs & Rhythms´, and have a spontaneous, improvisatory quality, while `Caucasian Dance´ has all the verve of the mountain music of Georgia and Armenia. A remarkable work."

Heinz Holliger´s Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis is an Editor´s Choice Selection in Gramophone. Jonathan Freeman-Attwood writes: "For the uncontrived and unalloyed delights of Bach´s oboe-writing, this is a recital of a rare questing elegance. (...) The ubiquitous Marcello is stripped of its formulaic signposts: the curvature of Bach-embellished middle movement has never sounded so effortless - and yet he identifies only with what pleases him in the gestural world of `period´ performance. A masterclass on several levels. But this is no hair-shirt experience. The deft, yielding rubatos in the slow movements afford an irresistible warmth which provide a compelling foil to the directional focus and visceral originality of the playing, especially in the A major Oboe d´amore Concerto and D minor reconstruction."

In The Independent, Andy Gill reviews Contrechant by Reto Bieri: "Swiss clarinettist Reto Bieri features solo here on pieces by challenging composers such as Luciano Berio, Heinz Holliger and Elliott Carter - an austere prospect, but one which reveals an engaging aspect, from the moment Berio´s `Lied´ opens with little fluting gulps as Bieri elides between notes. Carter´s´ `Gra´ (Polish for `play´) has a darting character, while the hypnotic ululations of Salvatore Sciarrino´s `Let me die before I wake´ operate at the lower limits of audibility. Elsewhere Holliger´s six-part `Contrechant´ plunges over three octaves in its first few notes, going on to incorporate tongue-slapped single notes and longer, gurgling tremors among the general flow."

In Classic FM Magazine, Jeremy Nicholas praises András Schiff´s recording Geistervariationen: "A lovely two-disc set of four early Schumann works, the later nine little tone poems of Waldszenen, and his last work, the so-called `Ghost-Variations´. (...) András Schiff brings a touching intimacy to the suites of short character pieces that make up Papillons, Kinderszenen and Waldszenen, while relishing the grander gestures of the First Piano Sonata. But it is the last movement of the C major Fantasie that makes this absorbing release more so, for Schiff plays Schumann´s original ending of the third movement which returns to the same Beethoven quote that ends the first movement. You might agree with Schiff (and me) that his first thought was the more inspired. If not, he also includes the standard ending as the final item on the disc. The musicological aspect aside, this remains a distinguished release."
In German newspaper Rheinische Post, András Schiff also receives high praise for his recording. Christoph Vratz compliments Schiff on his interpretation of "Papillons": "flink, grillenhaft und mit herrlichem Gespür für Rubati, die kleinen Verzögerungen, die schnell Gefahr laufen, in große Löcher auszuarten." Furthermore he writes: "Die `Kinderszenen´ macht Schiff zu einem Füllhorn an Poesie. (...) Wie Schiff das Ende der `Wichtigen Begebenheit´ ins Nichts überführt, wie er die Mehrstimmigkeit in `Am Kamin´ auslotet, wie er den `Ritter vom Steckenpferd´ nicht als Armee-Soldaten, sondern als burschikosen Kinder-Ritt deutet ist fabelhaft."