The inspired bringing together of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble has resulted in consistently inventive music making since 1993. The unprecedented “Officium” album, with Garbarek’s saxophone as a free-ranging ‘fifth voice’ with the Ensemble, gave the first indications of the musical scope and emotional power of this combination. “Mnemosyne” (1998) took the story further, expanding the repertoire beyond ‘early music’ to embrace works both ancient and modern.
Now, after another decade of shared experiences, comes “Officium Novum”, the third album from Garbarek/Hilliard, recorded, like its distinguished predecessors, in the St Gerold monastery. A central focus this time is music of Armenia based on the adaptations of Komitas Vardapet, pieces which draw upon both medieval sacred music and the bardic tradition of the Caucasus. The Hilliards have studied these pieces in the course of their visits to Armenia, and the modes of the music encourage some of Garbarek’s most impassioned playing. Alongside the Armenian pieces in the “Officium Novum” repertoire: Arvo Pärt’s “Most Holy Mother of God” in an a cappella reading , Byzantine chant, two pieces by Jan Garbarek, including a new version of “We are the stars”, as well as the Spanish “Tres morillas”. There is also a new account of Perotin’s “Alleluia, Nativitas”: the freedom of interpretation is testimony to the way the project as a whole has grown since its introduction on ECM New Series, with the Hilliard Ensemble now very much involved in the music’s improvisational processes and implications.
Officium Novum podcast
Fiona Talkington in conversation with Jan Garbarek, Manfred Eicher and the Hilliard Ensemble’s David James, Rogers-Covey Crump and Gordon Jones.