by Steve Koenig
now 80 years old, comes from the 1960s Russian avant-garde, well-established
within both the free improvisation and classical music scenes. Some of her free
improv work can be found on Leo Records anthologies. She's also considered one
of the most original East European/Russian mystical composers, not content to
let mere softness of tone represent spiritual forces.
The Lyre of
Orpheus opens with just the slightest of tintinnabulation, then to slow-progressing
slashes of strings. This erstwhile violin concerto, billed as "for violin,
percussion and orchestra," has lots of delicious moments, with string glissandi,
and parts where the strings play so high they wiggle and whistle. I tend to
enjoy fragments of this work more than I do the piece as a whole, which, by
the way, is the first part of an extended triptych; still, totally enjoyable.
of the Sun, giving the album its title and written for Mstislav Rostropovich,
uses similar forces plus a chorus, and uses the same type of material (glissandi,
bells, aching cello instead of aching violin). The composer gives Messiaen-style
titles to each of the four movements, such as "Glorification of the The
Creator, the Maker of the Four Elements: Air, Water, Fire and Earth."
opens with a tinkling which glides into high soprano voice, and then shortly
a rich bass voice comes in. The cello and chorus intermingle, the chorus sighing
happily, then dancing with bells and triangle.
Alstaedt plays with the most human-voiced expression imaginable, integrating
even the most "avant garde" squiggles and scrapes seamlessly with
Bach-Suites-like draws. He also fits as one with the chorus and orchestra. The
Riga Chamber Choir too is most beautiful and, dare I say, welcoming of tone.
The piece ends
with a drone, and cello punctuations which bring to mind George Crumb, then
an aching cello melody with resonant percussion, and beautifully sad choral
recitation in the final movement, "Glorification of Death," which
ultimately concludes with the chorus sounding at peace among star-like tintinnabulation,
and the cello trailing off, solo, like a comet's tail.
of the Sun is riveting from start to final haunting note.