Mansurian

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COMPOSERS: Mansurian
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Mansurian: Quasi parlando
WORKS: Double Concerto for violin and cello; Romance; Quasi Parlando; Four Serious Songs
PERFORMER: Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Anja Lechner (cello); Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Candida Thompson
CATALOGUE NO: ECM 481 0667

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This is ECM’s fourth CD devoted to the music of contemporary Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian, who was 75 in January. It’s the first to feature violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, whose pure, rich tone and unforced eloquence do so much to create the special sound-world of the programme. Quasi Parlando (that piece features instead cellist Anja Lechner, and they come together in the Double Concerto) is an apt title for the album as a whole, for the essence of Mansurian’s obviously attractive idiom is the quality of a speaking voice: typically, here, a string soloist (or soloists) fronts massed strings, all expertly scored for and evoking timeless images of preacher and congregation, or (as in the brand-new, passionate Four Serious Songs) solo singer and supporting, lamenting choir.

Armenia, in Mansurian’s vision, is like the original cradle of sound. The seamless fusion of sacred and folk influences, not displayed as ‘local colour’ but wholly absorbed into the music’s bloodstream, the marvellous economy of line and harmony (he is not one to waste a note), the discreet oriental echoes redolent of Armenian landscape – all these help to explain the appeal of his music. Mostly, these pieces are slow and meditative (the Concerto brings some violent outbursts) and perhaps better sampled individually than at one sitting. But this is an intensely beautiful disc.

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Calum MacDonald