Narrante is the highly attractive ECM debut album of Golfam Khayam and Mona Matbou Riahi, otherwise known as the Naqsh Duo. The guitarist and clarinetist, both born in Teheran, have pursued further musical adventures outside Iran while remaining fascinated and strongly influenced by their homelands rich and diverse traditions. In the process they have arrived at a synthesis of their own, finding points of contact between aspects of Persian tradition and contemporary music. The forms, modes, drones and rhythms of Persian music as well its call for improvisation are redeployed, to new creative ends, in their fresh and vital work.
Between March 2004 and May 2006 András Schiff performed the complete cycle of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas at the Tonhalle, Zürich, recorded and released by ECM New Series. This collection presents the encores from these concerts. What does one play after Beethoven sonatas? András Schiff: “For me it's essential not to seek entertainment but rather to look for pieces that are closely related to the previously heard sonatas.” The pianist explores links to Schubert, Mozart, Haydn and Bach. For all the interconnecting strands of musical history, András Schiff’s selection of encores also adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable ‘recital’ disc in its own right.
Armenian-American violist Kim Kashkashian, one of the major musical voices of ECM New Series, introduces a new duo with Russian composer-pianist Lera Auerbach. Their first recording together features Auerbach’s viola and piano version of Dmitri Shostakovich’s often playful 24 Preludes op. 34, and Auerbach’s own, darker, sonata for viola and piano, Arcanum. Lera Auerbach says, “Arcanum means ‘mysterious knowledge’, and I was fascinated by the inner voice within each of us, some may call it perhaps intuition, some maybe guided meditation, but there is some knowledge that we have, which we may not necessarily verbalize or rationalize, but that allows us to see the truth, to be guided, to seek answers.” Auerbach wrote her sonata for Kashkashian: “There is a quality of life-or-death-intensity to her performing, which is rare and wonderful.”
The second ECM New Series album to fully showcase pure-toned Estonian vocal group Vox Clamantis and its artistic director/conductor Jaan-Eik Tulve is devoted to compositions by their great countryman, Arvo Pärt – whose music has been the most performed globally of any living composer over the past five years. This album – titled The Deer’s Cry after its first track, an incantatory work for a cappella mixed choir – is also the latest in an illustrious line of ECM New Series releases to feature Pärt’s compositions, the very music that inspired Manfred Eicher to establish the New Series imprint in 1984.
The great avant-jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille – whose associations have ranged from a long collaboration with Cecil Taylor to co-leading the collective Trio 3 with Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman – makes his ECM leader debut with The Declaration of Musical Independence. Featuring a quartet with guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Richard Teitelbaum and bassist Ben Street, the album kicks off with an artfully oblique interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Coltrane Time,” led by Cyrille’s solo drum intro.
The stage cantata David features Eleni Karaindrou’s music for a unique piece of Aegean drama, a verse play with words by an unknown 18th century poet from the island of Chios. Its text (first published only in 1979), invites a musical response and Greek composer Karaindrou rises splendidly to the challenge, imaginatively moving between past and present in her settings for mezzo-soprano and baritone singers, instrumental soloists, choir and orchestra.
The Danish String Quartet has had some wildly original programming ideas; here they settle for just a well-thought-out set of contemporary pieces. All three of these string quartets are early works by composers who have since gone on to renown; at the time of the album's 2016 release, Hans Abrahamsen was gaining lots of attention from well beyond his native Denmark.
Black Ice is a nice image for Dutch pianist Wolfert Brederode’s new trio music, with its gleaming lyricism, transparency, and hint of danger, as well as sleek melodic invention both from the leader and from Icelandic bassist Gulli Gudmundsson. Brederode and Gudmundsson have collaborated often over the last two decades in contexts from free improvisation to theatre music and have a keenly honed intuitive understanding. Jasper van Hulten is a resourceful addition to the team, a tone-sensitive drummer adept at embellishing the sensitive musical language and sense of interplay. The album, recorded at Lugano’s Studio RSI in July 2015 and produced by Manfred Eicher, is issued as the Brederode Trio goes on tour in the Netherlands…