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Boris Yoffe: Song Of Songs / Rosamunde Quartett, Hilliard Ensemble

Release Date: 10/24/2011 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 001607402  
Composer:  Boris Yoffe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hilliard EnsembleRosamunde Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

YOFFE Song of Songs Rosamunde Qrt; Hilliard Ens ECM 2174 (52:34)

Boris Yoffee was born in Russia in 1968. There, he studied violin and composition and before the breakup of the Soviet Union he immigrated to Israel, where he studied at Tel Aviv University. In 1997, he moved to Germany to study composition with Wolfgang Rihm. By 2009, he had amassed an enormous number of short works. Thus, the performers who had been asked to record his Song of Songs Read more looked through approximately 800 of them in order to select the pieces they wanted to perform.

The Rosamunde Quartet is a German string quartet that was formed in 1992; since the group disbanded in 2010, this is its last recording. The Hilliard Ensemble is a British male vocal quartet that is well known for its performance of Renaissance, medieval, and contemporary music. It has often performed the works of Arvo Pärt, whose music is somewhat similar to that of Yoffe.

The Song of Songs is scored for the unusual combination of four instruments and four voices, so it produces some interesting and unusual sonorities. There are five sections. The first, titled “I Sought Him but I Found Him Not,” is mostly instrumental after some vocal music at the beginning. It is followed by “My Own Vineyard I Did Not Keep,” which uses more of the Hilliard Ensemble’s opulent vocal resources. The third section, “I Sleep, but My Heart Waketh,” gives us more of the Hilliard Ensemble, as well as fine examples of the Rosamunde Quartet’s lucid playing. The fourth section, “My Head Is Filled with Dew, My Locks with Drops of the Night,” gives way to an enchanting dreamlike sequence of intertwining harmonies, while the fifth, “My Soul Went Forth When He Spoke,” concludes with an instrumental finale.

We are told that the text consists of Hebrew phrases from the Old Testament, but no libretto is supplied. The words are not easy to grasp, either, because the work was recorded in a setting with a very live acoustic. Yoffe uses the vocal soloists in the same way he uses the instrumentalists: He puts far more value on their sound than on the verbal message they convey. Yoffe’s works, like those of Pärt, are rooted in early music. The Song of Songs is sometimes reminiscent of Gregorian chant but it is also imbued with an idiomatic modernism. Yoffe also leaves a great deal to be supplied by the performers because he gives them no markings for interpretation; it is up to the performers to analyze the music and decide how it should be played. When another group performs the Song of Songs , it will most likely be quite a different piece.

The ambient sound is the result of having been recorded in an ancient church rather than a concert hall, and it fits the selections well.

FANFARE: Maria Nockin
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Works on This Recording

Song of Songs by Boris Yoffe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hilliard Ensemble,  Rosamunde Quartet

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