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Neharot / Kim Kashkashian

Release Date: 08/25/2009 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 4763281   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Betty OliveroTigran MansurianKomitas VardapetEitan Steinberg
Performer:  Robyn SchulkowskyKim KashkashianTigran Mansurian
Conductor:  Alexander LiebreichGil Rose
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Chamber OrchestraBoston Modern Orchestra ProjectKuss String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

OLIVERO Neharót Neharót. 1 MANSURIAN Tagh of the Funeral of the Lord. 2 Oror. 3 3 Arias. 4 STEINBERG Rava Deravin 5 Kim Kashkashian (va); 1,2,4,5 Alexander Liebreich, cond; Read more class="SUPER12">1 Gil Rose, cond; 4 Robyn Schulkowsky (perc); 2 Tigran Mansurian (pn); 3 Kuss Qrt; 5 Munich CO; 1 Boston Modern O Project 4 ECM 2065 (60:13)

The album “Asturiana” ( Fanfare 31:3) was, in effect, a personal statement by violist Kim Kashkashian. The present disc, entitled “Neharót,” follows on from this personal idea, offering connections between a number of composers who hail from Israel and Armenia. The musical materials used in these works are traditional laments of the Near East, Armenian chant, and Hasidic melody.

Betty Olivero’s Neharót Neharót was composed in 2006 in response to the pain and suffering of the war in Lebanon. Scored for viola, accordion, percussion, two string ensembles, and tape, it includes references to Kurdish and North African song, traditional oriental music, and even Monteverdi (the list of quotations begins with one from Orpheus’s lament). The title means “Rivers, Rivers” and refers to the tears shed by mourning women in response to disasters, while also making reference to the Hebrew “nehara,” meaning “ray of light.” It is a most beautiful soundscape. Kashkashian’s lamenting viola is supremely, perhaps even uniquely, eloquent in expression. The viola sonority is underscored by the use of the four violas from the orchestra. The score also uses recorded singing from the artists Lea Avraham and Ilana Elia. The viola of Kashkashian sings eloquently through all of this. The effect is hypnotic, and deepens on each listening.

The “tagh” is an ancient Armenian song. Tagh of the Funeral of the Lord is scored for viola and percussion; the haunting sound of the vibraphone and Thai gongs punctuate Kashkashian’s long, winding melodic line (based on a D Phrygian with quarter-tone-sharpened seventh). Although similar in effect to the Olivero, the substantially thinned-down surface, if anything, highlights the plaintive melody. Oror had been featured on a previous album (“Heyren”), and is Mansurian’s arrangement of a lullaby by Komitas. The aim of the juxtaposition of lament and lullaby is to show how close they can be emotionally. Mansurian himself plays the three-minute piece with an eloquent and haunting simplicity. The final work here by Mansurian was explicitly written for the present performers. Subtitled, “Sung out of the Window facing Mount Ararat,” Three Arias contains moments of affecting simplicity and is effectively another lament, this time for ancient Armenian sites that are now over the border in Turkish territory. The arias are imagined to be sung through windows facing Ararat, but also to the mountains of Sasun and the ruins of the abandoned city of Ani. The performance here is radiant, thanks in no short measure to the excellence of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, a group new to me. Kashkashian’s concentration is intense, and nowhere more so than in the first movement cadenza. There is a poignant simplicity to the central movement (Tranquillo, poco libero) that runs through to the final, aching Lento.

The Israeli composer Eitan Steinberg studied with Berio, Maxwell Davies, and Donatoni, and is at present head of the music department of Haifa University. The piece Rava Deravin (“Favour of favours”) was composed in 2001, scored for singer and ensemble, setting sacred kabalistic text. Kashkashian suggested the present version for viola and string quartet. The challenge, as Kashkashian puts it, is to “cry the prayer from within the strings, to murmur the sacred text with no words.” The result is as successful as it is haunting. The impassioned outbursts of the work’s final stages are particularly affecting. The Kuss Quartett is an admirable exponent of this music.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Neharot, Neharot by Betty Olivero
Performer:  Robyn Schulkowsky (Percussion), Kim Kashkashian (Viola)
Conductor:  Alexander Liebreich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Tagh of the Funeral of the Lord by Tigran Mansurian
Performer:  Kim Kashkashian (Viola), Robyn Schulkowsky (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Oror, Adino by Komitas Vardapet
Performer:  Tigran Mansurian (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907-1910; Armenia 
Sung Out the Window Facing Mount Ararat by Tigran Mansurian
Performer:  Kim Kashkashian (Viola)
Conductor:  Gil Rose
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Modern Orchestra Project
Period: 20th Century 
Rava Deravin by Eitan Steinberg
Performer:  Kim Kashkashian (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 

Featured Sound Samples

Neharót Neharót (Olivero)
Three Arias (Sung Out the Window Facing Mount Ararat) (Mansurian): No 2: Tranquillo, poco libero

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