Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Cuban Odyssey, a Chant from a Holy Book, a Mozart Horn: Playlist for Beethoven's Breakfast, February 9, 2009, Mondays at 6:30 am PST

Grupo Vocal Desandann:
Nan Fwon Bwaa, Alabans, and Prizon, from Jane Bunnett: Cuban Odyssey (EMI)

This 10-voice a cappella group from rural Cuba makes music unlike anything I have ever heard from Cuba or anywhere else. They are the descendants of Haitian slaves and they sing not in Spanish or Yoroba but in a patois. Somehow their sound is both brightly innocent and solemn. These three tracks (unfortunately their only available recordings that I am aware of) are from an otherwise quite different CD by Jane Bunnett, as part of her continuing exploration of Cuban music.

Anja Lechner and Vassilis Tsabropoulos: Chant from a Holy Book, Bayaty, Prayer, and Duduki, from Chants, Hymns, and Dances (ECM)

The "unknowable" Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, as one of his students called him, was a unique spiritual teacher who founded the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France in the 1920s. His spiritual practices were gleaned from many world religions and from his own ideas, and they included a set of dance movements to be performed to music composed by Gurdjieff and performed by his friend the pianist Thomas DeHartmann as part of a journey to higher consciousness.

The cellist Anja Lechner and pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos, on this 2001 CD, have interpreted Gurjieff's music quite freely, and for me these performances do convey the contemplative aims of their composer, but they are also emotionally rich. Who knows whether the eccentric and very particular Gurdjieff would have approved.

Hermann Baumann and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Pinchas Zukerman: Horn Concerto No. 3, from Mozart Horn Concertos (Philips)

I love music from the baroque and classical periods written for solo wind instruments with orchestral
accompaniment. The International Horn Society says we should call it the horn, not the French Horn. By whatever name, it is a lovely and mysterious instrument and famously difficult to play. Thanks to Mozart for several horn concertos, all gems.

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