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Giger: Ignis


Release Date: 11/14/2000 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 465648   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Paul Giger
Performer:  Marius UngureanuPaul GigerBeat Schneider
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The trouble comes when you try to classify these pieces, to orient them to a time and place, a style, a genre. While all are based on early music--a hymn by Hildegard, 10th century monophonic melodies, an anonymous 13th century work from the Notre Dame school--Swiss violinist/composer Paul Giger has taken the originals to a realm far beyond their ancient roots. This is not a bad thing, but rather poses the question as to the wisdom of categorizing music at all. Here are several cases where it's better to just allow the music to affect us as it will, unhindered by preconceived rules and expectations. Organum, for string trio, begins with a stark open fifth that fades to a background drone, providing color and constancy underneath ever more Read more complex melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic additions by the other two instruments. The spirit if not the direct style of Arvo Pärt wafts and swirls like incense all around and through this piece. Karma Shadub (Tibetan for "Dancing Star"), for chorus and violin, is an amazing piece of work, a kind of Ligeti meets Reich (with a little Adams thrown in). The chorus' mumbling polyrhythmic intonations of single notes and chords for the first 10 minutes starts to play subtle games with your senses. But if you stay with it, at about the halfway point (11 and one half minutes) there's a sudden, dramatic change in harmony and in the choir's movement, from a murmuring and subtle shifting of rhythms to a more pronounced pulse and division of vocal parts. It turns into something with form and shape and it really delivers an impact--thanks largely to some really virtuoso singing by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Apparently, the singers performed the piece "in relays, splitting the parts between them."

O Ignis, based on a Hildegard melody, has appeared in an earlier version for four voices, saxophone, and violin, and again, this nearly 30-minute-long piece for choir and string trio brings Pärt to mind, especially in the substantial middle section with its ostinato bass, slow moving choral lines, and modal harmonic cast. But surprising things occasionally happen--sudden dissonant, squealing outbursts by the strings, an ethereal high soprano solo that just comes out of nowhere, spoken passages by the chorus--and since we have no road map, not even a text to follow, we just have to pay attention. Tropus features a gorgeous a cappella choral section that bursts reassuringly forth from confusion and disorder near the end. Alleluja, for string trio, plays freely with melody and rhythm, using full measure of string tone and technique, including harmonics and double stops, to create crystal clear, ringing sonorities.

The considerable resonance of the Niguliste Church in Talinn, Estonia, is an important "player" in this recording, creating additional layers of harmony that in turn produce new harmonies and color that can't actually be written down but that Giger knowingly anticipated in choosing this site. (What he didn't anticipate was outside noise during the two works that are performed live--including a car alarm and a crowd of people talking loudly. In the disc's press materials Giger suggests that these sounds "fit in perfectly" with the music, but to my ears they are merely distracting and intrusive.) There are virtually no liner notes or texts included with the recording, which I think is a mistake, especially where new, unfamiliar music is concerned--much of it text-based. Giger explains that all of the works on the program are sacred, even the purely instrumental ones. But as you'll quickly see when you listen, that's one thing you won't need anyone to tell you.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. O Ignis by Paul Giger
Performer:  Marius Ungureanu (Viola), Paul Giger (Violin), Beat Schneider (Cello)
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 06/1998 
Venue:  Niguliste Church, Tallinn, Estonia 
Length: 27 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Notes: This work is based on a hymn by Hildegard von Bingen. 
2. Karma Shadub by Paul Giger
Performer:  Paul Giger (Violin)
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984-1999 
Date of Recording: 06/1998 
Venue:  Live  Niguliste Church, Tallinn, Estonia 
Length: 21 Minutes 1 Secs. 
3. Tropus by Paul Giger
Performer:  Paul Giger (Violin), Marius Ungureanu (Viola), Beat Schneider (Cello)
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 06/1998 
Venue:  Live  Niguliste Church, Tallinn, Estonia 
Length: 14 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Notes: This work is based on monophonic melodies by Tuotilo and Notker Balbulus. 
4. Alleluja by Paul Giger
Performer:  Paul Giger (Violin), Paul Giger (Viola d'amore), Beat Schneider (Cello),
Marius Ungureanu (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 06/1998 
Venue:  Niguliste Church, Tallinn, Estonia 
Length: 3 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Notes: This work is based on monophonic melodies by Tuotilo and Notker Balbulus. 
5. Organum by Paul Giger
Performer:  Beat Schneider (Cello), Marius Ungureanu (Viola), Paul Giger (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 06/1998 
Venue:  Niguliste Church, Tallinn, Estonia 
Length: 6 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Notes: This work is based on an anonymous composition of the Notre Dame School. 

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