Saturday, March 16, 2019

Taking the musical road less travelled


The road less travelled beckons again, so On An Overgrown Path will now fall silent for an extended period. Before departing I am showcasing four new CD (re)-releases and one deletion. All these CDs were bought by me and have provided hours of rewarding listening. So I hope my personal recommendations carry more conviction than the reheated press releases and lazy YouTube links that are the staple fare elsewhere. At a time when new Sibelius/Mahler/Shostakovich cycles are the limits of record company creativity it is good to see an independent taking the musical road less travelled. The Spanish independent label Glossa has bundled two of their own discs of Rameau Orchestral Suites played by Frans Brüggen and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with two recorded by Philips/Universal Music into a 4 CD budget box of re-releases. Although recorded by two companies the producer for all four discs is Gerd Berg. I first came across his work when he was a staff producer at EMI Electrola, and his pioneering Reflexe early music series for EMI demands reissuing. All the Rameau recordings were captured at concerts, and the sound is consistently and convincingly transparent. The Suites were compiled by Frans Brüggen from the orchestral sections of Rameau's operas, and it goes without saying the performances are exemplary.


My admiration for the Chemirani percussion dynasty is reflected in multiple appearances by them here. The latest project from percussion powerhouse Keyvan Chemirani is his Rhythm Academy line up which includes Prabhu Edouard (tablas), Vincent Segal (cello), Socratis Sinopoulos (Cretan lyra) and the other members of the Trio Chemirani. I have had the pleasure of hearing Prabhu Edouard play several times, notably at the Les Orientales Festival in the Loire Valley and on Jordi Savall's Francisco Javier project in Paris. Several of Prabhu Edouard's recent solo releases have verged on the dreaded World Music blancmange, but Keyvan Chemirani's leadership ensures that this new CD avoids the syrupy stuff. Particularly noteworthy is Arézoust (Desire) which is an elaboration of a track from the Trio Chemirani's recent solo album Dawâr setting Rumi's verse. When I wrote about Prabhu Edouard's Les Orientales gig I used the headline 'The only limits are those set by the musicians'. All the huge talents in the Rhythm Academy make music that sits well outside the filter bubbles which so much of today's art music is created to fit into. The result is music without limits par excellence - sample it here.


As a footnote to my music for meditation thread I am including Verve's maverick and deleted Jazz for Meditation. Don't be put off by the cheesy presentation - this is not New Age easy listening. When Verve compiled the disc in 2007 they mined their rich archive of progressive jazz classics. So sitting in are Alice Coltrane, Randy Weston, Yusef Lateef and John Mayer - the latter was featured in In search of the lost symphony and played in the London Philharmonic Orchestra. If zazen isn't your scene Jazz For Meditation is worth seeking out for an outstanding playlist of music less travelled.


Young Franco-Egyptian oud virtusos Mohamed Abzekry came to my attention through his first two albums which combined the classical oud with contemporary jazz in a fusion style that challenged comfort zones - which for me is the right use of fusion. For his third album Karkadé he takes the bold step of returning to his Egyptian roots. Karkadé is the hibiscus flower that gives its name to a popular Egyptian tea, and the new album explores Egyptian folk and Sufi themes - sample here. The final track Le vin mystique is an extended setting to a Sufi trance rhythm of a poem by the 12th century Egyptian mystic poet Ibn al-Fāriḍ. Rumi and the other well-known ecstatic Sufi poets were of Persian not Arab ethnicity. Ibn al-Fāriḍ was the leading Arab exponent of mystic poetry but remains almost unknown in the West. Which is puzzling given Rumi's immense popularity and the increasing interest in Sufism. It is also puzzling because the Egyptian hermetic and Sufi Dun-Nun al-Misri (830 CE) from Nubia, according to the authoritative British Orientalist R A Nicholson, "above all others gave to the Sufi doctrine its permanent shape".


With the CD approaching extinction I am hoovering up the absurdly cheap box sets that have become a feature of the distressed recorded music market. The baroque field has been particularly well-served by the race down to zero pricing dictated by the hegemony of streaming. So my recent rewarding purchases have included Deutsche Harmonia Mundi's 50 CD baroque music doorstop and 10 CD Freiburger Barockorchester Edition, and Sony's 47 CD Tafelmusik Complete Recordings. But for this roundup I am showcasing Capriccio's 10 CD Concerto Köln compilation which combines the familiar - Western instruments without any of those pesky ouds, tablas and Cretan lyres - with the unfamiliar - a treasure trove of little known composers, see composer listing here. To quote The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam, 'The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves On'. Enjoy my recommendations and take care.

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