Hymns and Prayers

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Franck,Kancheli,Tickmayer
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Tickmayer: Eight Hymns in memoriam Andrei Tarkovsky; Franck: Piano Quintet in F minor; Kancheli: Silent Prayer
PERFORMER: Gidon Kremer, Maria Nemanyte (violin), Maxim Rysanov (viola), Giedre Dirvanauskaite (cello), Khatia Buniatishvili (piano); Kremerata Baltica
CATALOGUE NO: ECM 476 3912

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In their very different ways both these releases (see Nonesuch PRO400123) typify Gidon Kremer’s extraordinarily eclectic outlook, which delights in juxtaposing works that appear at first glance to have little connection with each other.

This is particularly the case with the ECM disc in which the overwrought Romantic frenzy of Franck’s Piano Quintet seems a very unlikely bedfellow for the largely contemplative music of Hungarian Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer (born 1963), and of Kancheli. No doubt Kremer’s idea was to opt for the maximum degree of stylistic contrast, but I’m not entirely convinced that the programme gels as a whole.

Nonetheless, the disc is well worth hearing for the moving and authoritative account of Kancheli’s Silent Prayer, a double concerto for violin, cello, strings and tape completed in 2007 and dedicated to the cellist Rostropovich and Kremer. As with much of Kancheli’s recent music, the work is slow, hypnotic and expansive, but manages through the ethereal beauty of its textures to sustain one’s interest over a time span of nearly half an hour. 

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The Franck is also distinguished by some fine playing. Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishivili delivers a bravura performance of the first movement’s powerful arpeggios and octaves, and the finale is strongly characterised, the almost modernistic sul ponticello tremolando strings creating a real sense of forward momentum. However, the performance is marred by an occasional imprecision of ensemble and the slightly reverberant acoustic clouds some of the textures in the more full-blooded passages. Erik Levi