October 17, 2008

Gurdjieff, Tsabropoulos - Chants, Hymns and Dances

Artists:Gurdjieff, Tsabropoulos
Album: Chants, Hymns and Dances
Year: 2004
Genre:Piano, Neo-classical, Minimalism
Bitrate:320 Kbps

The music is simple, yet subtle; Anja Lechner on violoncello, and Vassilis Tsabropoulos on piano together weave a full texture of unforgettable music. Most of the album us based on melodies by Gurdjieff, around a trio of pieces by Tsabropoulos. The whole is serene, mournful, inspiring.
This is a quiet, peaceful disc, and yet it's not the kind of thing you'll probably play as background music. Something about these melodies works its way right *below* your consciousness, so that you want to really listen to it, really lose yourself in it. There are no lyrics, no voices, and yet these "chants" seem to strive to communicate something exquisitely beautiful, something tragically forgotten.
Perfect. Impossible. Heartbreaking
"Philosopher, seeker after the truth, reconciler of science and religion, teacher, guru to artists, writers and musicians, Gurdjieff was an enigmatic figure; even his birthdate is uncertain: 1866 or 1877. He taught movements "to alter or heighten consciousness" at his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, located outside Paris---a highly improvisatory process for which he composed equally improvisatory music. Technically untrained, he depended on skilled assistants to realize and write down his ideas, and found one in a devoted disciple: Ukranian pianist/composer Thomas de Hartmann, who selflessly suspended his own career and, after Gurdjieff's death in 1948, privately published and recorded some of their collaborations. As a composer, Gurdjieff, born at the border of Armenia and Turkey, was influenced by the region's ethnic and cultural diversity, by his childhood memories of the religious and philosophical songs improvised by his father, a Greek troubadour, by the hymns of the Greek Orthodox Church, and by his extensive travels through Europe and Asia. For this recording, the performers themselves arranged his compositions for cello and piano, adding five pieces by pianist Tsabropoulos, including three based on Byzantine hymns. Both players have been involved with Armenian, Ukranian and Greek Orthodox music; both are expert improvisers. Their strong feeling and affinity for the material allows them to approach it with both reverence and freedom; the playing is primarily subdued and inward. The piano texture ranges from delicate tinkling to full-blooded chords and arpeggios; the cello, playing mostly in the low and middle register, often in unison with the piano, sounds dark, warm and beautiful. The music, except for one lively dance, is slow, solemn, and mournful, in the minor mode. Melodies featuring oriental intervals are elaborated but not developed; based on single-note drones, harmonies are static or move in stepwise progressions but do not modulate. This lack of contrast and variety creates an otherworldly, disembodied atmosphere, despite several buildups of motion, dynamics, and intensity. "--Edith Eisler


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