WORKS: Midday Prayers; Caris Mere; Night Prayers
PERFORMER: Eduard Brunner (clarinet), Maacha Deubner (soprano), Kim Kashkashian (viola), Jan Garbarek (soprano sax) Stuttgart CO/Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 449 198-2
This is a disc that needs time to make its presence felt: both literally, in that Midday Prayers begins with murky swathes of quiet before building to a leviathan climax, and in the way the slow, unwieldy, apparently formless expanses of each work need repeated listening in order to gain any sense of their wholeness.
Midday Prayers, featuring the dedicatee clarinettist Eduard Brunner, weaves wispy melismas over a floating tonality which, so the booklet note says, is ‘of exceptional dignity and (poisoned) beauty’. But dignity is just what the climactic points of blasting energy lack. These statements have the belligerent violence of Galina Ustvolskaya, without the confidence of her convictions.
Caris Mere (Georgian for ‘After the Wind’) forms the seven-minute vocal centrepiece in this melancholy triptych. It is meant to represent the ‘scorching’ of the human spirit by the glacial wind and is certainly a deeply spiritual meditation. But if ECM was hoping that this would become another hit of Officium or Angels of Light proportions, the work is possibly too diffuse, too introverted to arrest the Classic FM attention span. As in Kancheli’s Exil, the voice of soprano Maacha Deubner is recorded in too much of a pale wash to make an impact, and even Kim Kashkashian’s viola sound, characteristically gutsy, is somehow neutralised by this music.
Night Prayers has been ‘in process’ for three years, and now appears with shrill improvisations from Jan Garbarek. It is the most intricate of all the works, but, considering their varied instrumentation and scope, these pieces are remarkably undifferentiated. Could it be the extreme slowness of their unfolding which eventually reduces all to the aural equivalent of the flat, grey wastes depicted on the cover? Helen Wallace