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June 14 , 2013

Reviews of the Week

Dobrinka Tabakova`s String Paths impresses reviewers in the United Kingdom and Germany

Tabakova was born in Bulgaria in 1980, moving to London to study in the early 1990s. Her aim is to write music ‘that grabs you and has something to say,’ citing John Adams and Sofia Gubaidulina among her inspirations. And she’s brilliant at seizing your attention – the angular bass figurations which kick off the ‘Concerto for Cello and Strings’, or the accordion-like wheeziness which colours parts of the string trio ‘Insight’. The concerto’s last movement is stunning, the combination of vigour and ecstacy recalling Tippett.
Tabakova’s ‘Suite in Old Style’ for viola and chamber orchestra won’t frighten anyone – an affectionate baroque pastiche which does plumb genuine depths. That it could have been composed at any point during the last century shouldn’t underplay its charms. More striking is a trio for violin, accordion and bass, and an ambitious string septet, ‘Such different paths’, dedicated to (and here recorded by) Dutch violinist Janine Jansen. Solo playing throughout is inspired, whether it’s from Maxim Rysanov on viola, Kristine Blaumane on cello, or violinist Roman Mints. ECM’s sound is, as usual, rich and detailed.
Graham Rickson, TheArtsDesk

Her glowing tonal harmonies and grand, sweeping gestures convey a huge emotional depth that gives the pieces here immediate appeal. And it would be hard to better the passionately committed performances of her music given by the starry line-up of players on this remarkable disc. The high point is Kristina Blaumane’s astonishingly powerful performanceof Tabakova’s 2008 Cello Concerto, an account of such intensity that it’s quite draining to listen to. From the first movement’s pounding, urgent chords to the glassy harmonics of the fragile third movement, Blaumane maintains a rich, radiant sound with beautifully sculpted phrases, and the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra gives fervent support. [...] From start to finish, it’s hard not to be swept up in the abundant power of Tabakova’s music – matched in a recorded sound that’s warm and clear.
David Kettle, The Strad

Die 2006 entstandene Suite scheint der Ausgangspunkt für die erste, bei ECM erschienene, Porträt-CD dieser außergewöhnlichen jungen Komponistin gewesen zu sein. Neben der Suite präsentiert sie mit drei Kammermusikwerken und dem Konzert für Violoncello und Streichorchester vier Werke sehr unterschiedlichen Zuschnitts, die jedoch alle Ausdruck einer sehr persönlichen Sprache sind. Die Bulgarin hat keinerlei Scheu vor fast romantisch anmutenden, weit gespannten melodischen Linien, vor offen ausgestellter Expressivität und Emotionalität, vor süffigen Streicherkantilenen - und vor der Tonalität. Es darf durchaus und an prominenter Stelle mal ein klarer d-moll-Akkord sein, und das Cellokonzert darf gerne im unmissverständlichen A-Dur gipfeln.
Darüber hinaus hat die Harmonik eine stark modale Einfärbung, ist die Volksmusik als Folie im Hintergrund dieser Musik unüberhörbar. Vertreter der reinen Lehre mögen sich angesichts eines so offenkundig entspannten Verhältnisses zu Tradition und Vergangenheit möglicherweise mit Grausen wenden. Doch es wäre ein Missverständnis, Tabakovas Unbefangenheit mit Unreflektiertheit zu verwechseln. Und ihre klangsinnliche Musik entwickelt eine enorme Sogwirkung, nicht nur in ihren ruhigen, meditativen Momenten. Dass Tabakovas Musik einigermaßen barrierefrei auch von Menschen gehört werden kann, die wenig Erfahrung mit zeitgenössischer Musik haben, muss man sicher nicht für eine Katastrophe halten, und einen Hinweis auf ihre Qualität liefert dieser Umstand schon gar nicht.
[…] Seien es die fragile Kühle ihres Trios ‚Frozen River Flows’ für Violine, Akkordeon und Kontrabass, der an minimalistische Verspieltheit erinnernde Beginn ihres Streichseptetts ‚Such different paths’ oder die immer wieder von Ausbrüchen gestörten flächigen Klänge und ruhigen Linien ihres Streichtrios ‚Insight’, die auf der neuen CD dokumentierte Sprache Tabakovas ist so vielseitig, von einer solchen Differenziertheit und Intensität, dass sich jede vorschnelle Einordnung verbietet. Dass die überragenden Interpreten nicht wenig zum überaus positiven Gesamteindruck dieser Veröffentlichung beitragen, muss kaum eigens erwähnt werden. Das gilt für den Bratscher Maxim Rysanov, der sich intensiv für die Musik Tabakovas einsetzt, nicht anders als für Janine Jansen als die sicher prominenteste Künstlerin auf dieser CD, für das Litauische Kammerorchester ebenso wie für alle anderen Beteiligten. Eine wunderschöne CD.
Oswald Beaujean, Bayerischer Rundfunk


An American reaction to the music of Victor Kissine, as recorded on Between Two Waves by Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica

All of these pieces, each in a different way, evoke a mood of fretful productivity, or maybe laid-back anxiety; each creates an abstract and at times almost pointillistic soundscape that alternately twinkles, glistens, mutters, and dances. I wouldn’t necessarily play this album at a party, but I would use it to demonstrate to skeptical friends that art music can be uncompromisingly modern without being chaotic, self-indulgent, assaultive, or merely mathematical. The playing is exceptionally fine; one of the featured soloists is violinist Gidon Kremer, who founded the punningly-named Kremerata Baltica.
Rick Anderson, Musicmediamonthly


Landscapes with the music of Toshio Hosokawa is reviewed in The Scotsman

His compositions became fusions of archaic and modern, ceremonial music and concert music, East and West, and his growing interest in Zen Buddhism – with its symbolic interpretation of nature – led him to study the sho, Japan’s ancient mouth organ with its 17 bamboo pipes, which is now most often heard in Imperial gagaku. This is the instrument that caresses the ear in the opening piece, not so much as a sonic mist, ever so delicate as its pure tones slowly multiply. When the strings of the orchestra join in, the effect is gently intensified. As Paul Griffith points out in his liner note, even the orchestral brass can join in this evocation of drifting clouds, while the percussion adds its own twinkling brightness , thanks to the Japanese wind-bells. We’ve heard a lot about fusion over the past decade or so, and most of it has mercifully evaporated on the wind. It has been all too easy to put groups from disparate traditions together, slap the label ‘fusion’ on the results, and await acclaim for cultural bridge-building.But musical bridge-building needs to be slow, organic, and impelled by something deeper than a catchy headline. Hosokawa, Miyata, and their German colleagues have chosen a quieter route but their collaborations genuinely point towards a possible musical future.
Michael Chruch, The Scotsman


Downbeat on Chants by the Craig Taborn Trio

The songs on Craig Taborn Trio’s latest CD, ‘Chants’, have titles, but they don’t have borders, or ordinary structures, or typical narrative flow. The songs are positively shimmering, immaculately detailed, prismatic and very improvisational. But they don’t live quickly or land easily; they flutter and spiral, bend and float, and constantly surprise. [...] You hear strains of Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley’s rambles and Paul Motian’s trios, even the urgency and repetition of some electronic music, but ‘Chant’ is original to its core. And lovely as in the lulaby like stillness of ‘In Chant’ Taborn’s stately, sad acoustic piano lines wrapping around double bassist Thomas Morgan’s lyrical lines and Gerald Cleaver’s sizzling brush strokes.
Ken Micallef, Downbeat


Susanne Abbuehl's The Gift enchants a German reviewer

Sie ist eine Meisterin des Feinen, des Zarten, des Zurückhaltenden. Und gerade deshalb klingen ihre Vertonungen so ausdrucksvoll. Die Schweizer Sängerin Susanne Abbuehl ist eine der besonders leisen Stimmen des internationalen Jazz. Diese Stimme umgibt sich hier mit dem weich verwehenden Flügelhorn-Klang von Mathieu Michel, dem weite Räume eröffnenden Klavierspiel von Wolfert Brederode und der flirrenden, manchmal fast lautlosen Percussion von Olavi Louhivuori. Vor allem langsame, stetig von Klang zu Klang gleitende Stücke sind da zu hören: lauter leise Meisterstücke mit großer Aura. An klingende Aquarelle von ganz eigenem Stil könnten sie erinnern: Bilder mit hinreißend schönen, durchweg gedeckten, aber in ihrem Zusammenwirken trotzdem leuchtenden Farben.
Roland Spiegel, Bayerischer Rundfunk


Somewhere by Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette impresses on both sides of the Atlantic

They’ve sure been around long enough, and Jarrett/Peacock and De Johnette play the standards with a remarkable telepathy. The fact that almost all of the material, such as ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ and ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’, commences with introductory musings by Jarrett’s fingers, you start asking yourself if any of these tunes are actually rehearsed, or if the piano simply starts a theme in which to respond. The free flowing transition from ‘Deep Space’ to ‘Solar’ gives hints of a conversation that goes where it desires, while Bernstein’s ‘Tonight’ and ‘Somewhere…’ ,with their complex interplay, have a conversant pliability to them. Wondrous music here by three of the best, both individually and collectively.
George W. Harris, JazzWeekly

The centrepiece of this live set by jazz’s pre-eminent piano trio is a crystalline version of ‘Somewhere’ from the ‘Westside Story’ that flies off into an ecstatic 13-minute vamp in the vein of their ‘Changeless’ album. Amid the roster of elegantly retooled standards another Bernstein is a highlight – ‘Tonight’ taken at bebop speed with fine soloing from Gary Peacock and JackDeJohnette. [...] in this golden age repertoire, they are still top of the heap.
John Bungey, The Times

It would be hard to finde three musicians more dedicated to keeping their music fresh and inventive than these, so it’s startling to realise that they have now been playing together , off and on, for the past 30 years. [...] this set, recorded live in Lucerne in 2009, shows no sign of flagging inspiration. If anything, the interplay between Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette is freeer and more beguiling than ever.
Dave Gelly, The Observer


American reactions to Gary Peacock and Marilyn Crispell's duo recording Azure

Recorded in upstate New York, where they both live, it’s a conversational study with an implied commitment to parity: it features the same number of compositions by each player, along with a few spontaneous inventions. The results are often starkly beautiful, with the sort of contemplative glow that only maturity seems to provide.
Nate Chinen, The New York Times

Musically, most of these performances involve a significant departure from any attention to a tonal center. This is not a matter of harmonic ambiguity, nor does it involve the bursts of clusters distributed over an instrument’s gamut according to some stochastic principle (as might be found in many of the piano solos of Cecil Taylor) or the sort of over-determined application of serial methods that one might encounter in the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. Many of the selections involve a far more lyrical approach to atonality, perhaps deliberately tweaking those who have studied too much music theory to admit of the possibility that atonal music can be lyrical. On the other hand the ostinato chord progressions of ‘Lullaby’, above which both Peacock and Crispell weave melodic lines, could have come from one of Erik Satie’s more mystical piano compositions.
Hopefully, this will be sufficient to convince the reader that this is not a recording of more-of-the-same tracks. Whether the method involves specific composition or spontaneous improvisation, there is considerable diversity across the album, even if the overall rhetoric is one of subdued introspection. This is one of the most convincing cases now available for the precept that jazz is ‘chamber music by other means’, a principle that, as I have previously observed, guided much of Motian’s approach to making music.
Stephen Smoliar, Examiner.com