The Brodsky Quartet explore Žebeljan’s chamber music

'Shifting between delicate, sinuous melodies and brutal rhythmic punch...'

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COMPOSERS: Isidora Žebeljan
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Žebeljan
WORKS: Polomka Quartet; Dance of the Wooden Sticks; New Songs of Lada; Sarabande; A Yawl on the Danube; Song of a Traveller in the Night; Pep it up
PERFORMER: Aneta Ilic (soprano), Stefan Dohr (horn), Joan Enric Lluna (clarinet), Isidora Zebeljan (piano), Miroslav Karlovic (percussion), Boban Stosic (double bass); Brodsky Quartet/Premil Petrovic
CATALOGUE NO: CPO 777 994-2

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Serbian composer Isidora Žebeljan garnered international acclaim in 2003 with her opera Zora D, and is justly celebrated for her music’s intense originality and fiery emotional expression. Although born in Belgrade (in 1967), ebeljan subsequently spent much of her childhood in a region divided between Romania, Serbia and Hungary – very much the land of Bartók, Kurtág and Ligeti.

The complex folk music traditions of the area richly infuse ebeljan’s work across this fine collection of chamber works, and are particularly evident in the disc’s restless opening composition for string quartet, Polomka (composed in 2009), that draws on the vigorous Balkan folk dances of the Vlachs, playfully described in the liner notes as ‘traditional Serbian break-dance’.

Headed by the excellent Brodsky Quartet, the disc features a variety of chamber configurations, including string quintet with French horn in the, by turns, contemplative and riotous Dance of the Wooden Sticks (composed 2008, and here featuring an outstanding performance from horn player Stefan Dohr), and string quartet plus soprano in the powerful New Songs of Lada (2006).

The disc’s final work, Pep it up (composed 1988) is scored for soprano, piano, string quintet and percussion, and explores the ‘limited consciousness… of an android’, shifting between delicate, sinuous melodies and brutal rhythmic punch to bring this powerful recording to an altogether arresting close.

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Kate Wakeling