Reviews to date: Independent, Mojo, Irish Times etc
The Classical Review
LOUTH CONTEMPORARY MUSIC SOCIETY Night Music: Voice in the Leaves
March 30, 2012 By Michael Quinn
Founded as recently as 2006, the Louth Contemporary Music Society has quickly established itself as one of the most imaginative, enterprising and cosmopolitan musical propositions in Ireland. Nestled on the eastern coast and abutting the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, its success is all the more remarkable (and admirable) for being located in Ireland’s smallest county.
Night Music: Voice in the Leaves is the third CD release from the Society, and, like its predecessors, boasts first performances of contemporary music, themes this time around with five works from four composers drawn from countries of the so-called ‘Soviet Orient’ – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – which once provided through-roads on the ancient silk trading route that stretched from Western Europe into the depths of China.
It takes its title from the Uzbek-born Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky’s
17-minute work for cello, voice, instrumental ensemble and tape, originally composed for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble in 2000. Described in Ivan Moody’s excellent liner notes as “an extraordinary, delicate nocturne that seems to build up an electric atmosphere from almost no material,” the work was prompted by the composer’s exploration of traditional folk music in the mountainous regions of
Darkly liquescent, it is an eerie and unsettling but intensely compelling amalgam of lullaby and lament, performed with delicate deliberation by cellist Ivan Monighetti and the Louth-based EQ Ensemble, conducted by Jean Thorel. A patchwork of shifting, overlapping timbral registers spun out with a call-and-answer, ebb-and-flow elasticity that moves with osmotic fluidity between insinuation and imposition, it is an altogether haunting blend of live and pre-recorded material that lingers long in the mind after the final note.
The same forces are joined by The Hilliard Quartet for a second
piece by Yanov-Yanovsky, the LCMS-commissioned Morning (2011),
a setting of a text (included in the booklet) by the American poet Robert Lax. A similar sense of time suspended pervades this atomized depiction of the first morning of the world. Beginning in hushed, tentative reverence, it is built from a latticework of separate textures that seem to organically interact, absorb, and mutate in a series of perpetually moving circularities that coalesce into impressionistic accumulations perfectly in keeping with the mystical leanings of
Sofia Gubaidulina is the most recognizable name here, and she contributes the longest work: the 23-minute Repentance (2008), a
re-working of the previous year’s Ravvedimento for cello and guitar quartet – written for Monighetti, the lyrical lynchpin of this recording – which substitutes guitar trio and double bass for the quartet. Threaded together by an ululating cello line accented by the sharp-edged tones of the erhu (a traditional two-string Chinese fiddle), it carries itself with a striking gravitational weight that is fashioned by the cello’s interplay with probing, prodding, often combustible guitars (played by keenly attuned members of the Dublin Guitar Quartet) and Malachy Robinson’s adroitly lowering, often exquisitely bathetic double bass.
Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s Aşk Havasi (a Turkish title that can lay claim to multiple meanings: “aşk” translating as “love”; “havasi” variously encompassing “emotion,” “impression,” “melody,” “dance,” and “mode”) was composed for Monighetti’s 50th birthday. Based on a classical Arab story of two tragic lovers, it can be heard as, says Moody, “an extended improvisation on the theme of the madness of love, sighing, pulsating, yearning, in essence a vastly extended single, singing melodic line, which includes elements of improvization.” Monighetti rises sublimely to its constantly evaporating, chilly charms (in the antique sense of the word) stretched from low to high registers to altogether evocative effect.
And to end at the beginning, album opener Iraida Yusupova’s
Kitezh-19 echoes the subterranean luster of Yanov-Yanovsky’s Night Music: Voice in the Leaves in its depiction of the fabled Russian city (immortalized by Rimsky-Korsakov in his opera, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya) that disappeared under water, so the legend claims, in the face of an imminent Mongol attack. Scored for theremin and tape, it is a remarkable work, shot through with sun-dappled shards of light and water-darkened murk.
Lydia Kavina, the Russian grand-niece of Léon Theremin, studied the instrument with its creator at the age of nine and plays it here like the unimpeachable virtuoso she is. Seldom has the theremin been stretched so subtly – in both Yusupova’s writing and Kavina’s playing – and to so beguiling effect. It’s not an easy listen by any means, Yusupova introducing a silky, stealthy, sinister element that alludes to the “secret cities” dedicated to military, scientific and other dubious exclusive purposes created by the Soviet Union. But it is, nonetheless, compulsive, and shares some kinship with Gavin Bryar’s conceptual tour de force, The Sinking of the Titanic.
The recording, in St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda, is superbly produced and engineered by LCMS founder Eamonn Quinn (no relation) and Alexander Van Ingen. Ivan Moody’s liner notes are exemplary, eloquent and illuminating.
Album: Various Artists: Night Music: Voice in the Leaves (Louth Contemporary Music Society)*****
ANDY GILL The Independent London
FRIDAY 30 MARCH 2012
Named after a piece by the Uzbek composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, Night Music: Voice in the Leaves explores music from the former Soviet Asian republics, played with dexterity and sensitivity by performers including the theremin virtuoso Lydia Kavina, who excels on Iraida Yusupova's "Kitezh-19", in which her eerily plaintive keening is allied to a tape of varispeeded chimes and plucked strings.
Elsewhere, Yanov-Yanovsky's two pieces explore different times of day: the sombre choral setting of Robert Lax's poem "Morning" is invaded by flurries of woodwind, vibes and low strings; while the title track weaves a web of crepuscular mystery from sparse string tones, tiny chimes, and trickles of piano and flute.
DOWNLOAD THIS Kitezh-19; Morning; Night Music: Voice in the Leaves
Mojo's May 2012 4* review of LCMS Night Music: Voice in the Leaves.
LCMS' third release ( following 2009's A Place Between and 2012's Path) showcases Soviet Orient composers Iraida Yusupova, Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh and Sofia Gubaidulina. Interpreted by the Hilliard Ensemble, Thereminist Lydia Kavina, cellist Ivan Monighetti and the Dublin Guitar Quartet, the result is stunning: spooky, melancholy music of space, beauty, and unease. AM
Classical Cd Reviews
New classical music releases reviewed in detail by Gavin Dixon
Friday, 16 March 2012
Night Music: Voice in the Leaves, Louth Contemporary Music Society
Music by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky,Sofia Gubaidulina, Iraida Yusupova, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh
Performed by Ivan Monighetti, The Hilliard Ensemble,EQ Ensemble, Jean Thorel, Lydia Kavina,Malachy Robinson, Dublin Guitar Quartet LCMS1201
Composers from former Soviet republics have a surprisingly hard time finding audiences in the West. A number of Russian conductors working in the UK try to programme their works, but almost always face a hostile reception from the critics, who either don't understand or (more likely) don't care about the recent musical developments in the East.
Fortunately, the Louth Contemporary Music Society continues to champion many of these composers, to commission and perform their works, and most importantly, to record them for wider dissemination. It would be an unreasonable demand on such a small organisation to keep us up to date on every development from Eastern Europe and post-Soviet Asia, but the favoured house style, an ever-more sophisticated and atmospheric post-minimalism, is certainly one of the dominant trends there, making these roughly annual updates all the more useful.
The four composers represented on this disc are all from different countries in central Asia: Yusupova from Turkmenistan, Yanov-Yanovsky from Uzbekistan, Ali-Zadeh from Azerbaijan and Gubaidulina from Tatarstan. The stylistic consistency between their works is surprising, and it is difficult to say if this is the result of continuing stylistic agreement between these neighbouring countries or just careful programming. An important unifying factor is the use of solo cello in almost every work. The cellist, Ivan Monighetti, is very much the focal point in most of these works, and his lyrical and technically-assured performances are a key factor in their success.
The first piece, Kitezh-19 by Iraida Yusupova is for solo theremin and tape. Strangely, this is the ideal combination to introduce the cello works later on, as the sound of the theremin is so similar to the cello. Both instruments, at least the way they are played on this disc, produce long, beguiling threads of melody, warmed with a very slight vibrato. For most of Yusupova's score, the theremin just holds a single note, while bells and plucked string instruments (shamisen? sitar?) are heard on the backing. The soloist is Lydia Kavina, one of the theremin's most prominent exponents and great grand niece of the instrument's inventor. She puts in a fine performance here, although there is little in the score to test her skills.
Works by Yanov-Yanovsky, Ali-Zadeh and Gubaidulina present the solo cello in three very different contexts: with ensemble and tape, unaccompanied and with guitar quartet and double bass. Ali-Zadeh's work, Ask Havasi, is the solo work, but it lacks nothing in terms of expressive focus and intensity. The consistency of the recorded sound is another important factor in the coherence on this programme, and the warm church resonance that the cello is given means that its unaccompanied sound is never thin. That said, there is something quite grounding about this unaccompanied work. There are no extended performing techniques, so the music has to rely instead purely on its melodic properties, which are sufficiently beguiling to carry the piece.
By contrast, Gubaidulina's Repentance sets the solo cello against an ensemble made up of double bass and a group of guitars. Although that's a counter-intuitive mix, there are a number of points of aural similarity. The cello's pizzicato, for example, brings it closer to the ensemble, and Hawaiian style slides from the guitars link them with the cello's portamento. As with many of Gubaidulina's scores, this is a long and intensely spiritual piece (even with Hawaiian guitars!) and at 23 minutes it does outstay its welcome a bit. But there is a lot of excellent music here, and I particularly like the Orthodox chants picked out on plucked strings – strong hints of Schnittke there.
Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky provides two works, Night Music a work for cello, ensemble and tape written in 2000, and Morning, commissioned for this project and completed in 2011. Night Music is the more accessible of the two. The large ensemble and the tape allow the composer to explore a wide range of timbres, although if you listen closely most of the timbral variety is actually coming from the cello. For all its minimalist ambience, Night Muisic has a clear, progressive structure, a musical journey carefully paced from beginning to end. That helps is to justify its 16 minute span, although it raises suspicions that, innovative as the textures are, the structuring is actually quite conventional.
There's nothing conventional though about Morning, the work Yanov-Yanovsky wrote specially for this project and that ends the programme. The piece is for singers – The Hilliard Ensemble – and a group of instrumentalists, in which the cello again predominates. The singers perform a setting of words by the American poet Robert Lax, harmonised to slow but dissonant chords. It is so rare to hear dissonant, or even non-tonal, choral music that the singing jumps out of the textures, perhaps more than it is intended to. But the singers are more than up to this sizeable task, and perhaps the composer heard some of their excellent Gesualdo recordings before deciding just how much dissonance he could get away with in the choral writing. But it is a fascinating piece, and an ideal closing work for the programme, fitting in as it does to the overall mood, but adding something unsettling and new to it as well. A taste of what is to come on the next LCMS album perhaps? Let's hope so.
Night Music Review The Irish Times
Hilliard Ensemble, Ivan Monighetti (cello), Lydia Kavina (theremin), Dublin Guitar Quartet, EQ Ensemble/Jean Thorel LCMS 1201 ****
Louth Contemporary Music Society’s latest CD has music by composers Iraida Yusupova, Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh and Sofia Gubaidulina, who were all born in the then the Soviet Union but whose birthplaces would be given as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Tatarstan. You could describe the works as mood pieces. Yusupova’s Kitezh-19 evokes resonances of invisible and closed cities. Yanov-Yanovsky’s Night Music: Voice in the Leaves pits ruminative solo cello against often spaced-out commentary from ensemble and tape – but his Morning never seems to cohere fully. Ali-Zadeh’s Ask Havasi finds solo cello in ecstatic mode. Gubaidulina’s Repentance revels in the combination of unusual instrumental sonorities and the pleasures of parallel movement, including Hawaiian guitar effects. louthcms.org