Officium Novum: Choral Works by Jan Garbarek

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COMPOSERS: Jan Garbarek,Komitas,Part,Pérotin,Seferis & Anonymous
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Choral works by Jan Garbarek, Komitas, Pärt, Pérotin, Seferis & Anonymous
PERFORMER: Jan Garbarek (soprano and tenor saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: ECM 476 3855

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Rather surprisingly, it is 12 years since the release of Mnemosyne, the last recorded collaboration between Garbarek and the Hilliards, although they have continued to perform together in concert.

Given the considerable popular success of that album and its predecessor, Officium, they have shown admirable restraint in waiting so long to issue a third but, whilst they can hardly be accused of milking the formula, nor have they developed it much.

That formula is still based principally on realisations of medieval and Renaissance pieces and works by 20th-century composers influenced by the Orthodox liturgy and other East-European Christian traditions, notably the Armenian. Since Mnemosyne they have also thrown in folk songs and chants from New World cultures. There are a couple of Garbarek originals here, too.

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Over the immanent, limpid voices Garbarek improvises equally immaculate counter-melodies. His contributions tend to be rather predictable, more decoration than improvisation in the fullest sense, but his tone is so pleasing (few players make the soprano acceptable to discerning ears) and the melodies so calming to the spirit that he can be forgiven. Barry Witherden