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Reza Vali: Toward That Endless Plain

Vali / Baty / Soltani / Rose
Release Date: 10/09/2012 
Label:  Bmop/Sound   Catalog #: 1026   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Reza Vali
Performer:  Khosrow SoltaniJanna Baty
Conductor:  Gil Rose
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Modern Orchestra Project
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



VALI Folk Songs: Sets Nos. 8 1 and 14 1. Toward That Endless Plain: Concerto for Persian Ney and Orchestra 2 Gil Rose, cond; Boston Modern O Project; 1 Janna Baty (mez); 2 Khosrow Soltani (ney) BMOP 1026 (50:55 Text and Read more Translation)


Reza Vali (b. 1952) is an Iranian composer based in the U.S.; he teaches at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. I’ve heard of him for some time, but this was my first chance to explore his music. The notes say that a common soundbite describes the composer is the “Béla Bartók of Iran,” and that a theme of his work is the blending of Persian traditional music with Western forms and media. There’s some truth here, but it suggests that Vali is about a half century behind the curve, and that would be untrue.


The two folk-song sets come closest to this description, using both traditional tunes and ones Vali invents to suggest a traditional source. At the very opening of No. 8, I thought we might be entering into a sort of “neo-Cantaloube” world, but very quickly Vali shows his interest in a much wider range of techniques and aesthetic tropes than the late 19th century. By the second song, the singer is intoning in Sprechstimme and the instruments are each in a separate rhythmic world of individually complex rhythmic figures, like birds in an aviary. Afterwards, in successive songs, a set of 12 tuned glasses is played as a sort of wind chime to accompany the singer; Bartókian asymmetric rhythms pound; suddenly we are in a world of Mahlerian Weltschmerz ; the voice keens with nothing but spare piano notes and an intermittent xylophone strike, irregular and becoming more frequent like a growing rainfall; a Stravinskian efflorescence surrounds the voice in the final song. I hope this suggests the technical expressive range at work here.


The later set is somewhat more integrated. The notes say that Vali feels that Debussy is a more evident influence here, which I admit I don’t hear as strongly. But the variety of compositional strategies is not as wide. There’s a lyrical impulse here not that far from Rimsky. I particularly like the fourth in the set, “Imaginary Folk Song,” which is an original tune and uses nonsense syllables to telling effect.


The concerto for ney (Persian flute, an instrument common through the Near East and Central Asia) begins with a bang, an Expressionist outcry that suggests the suffering of the everyday world that the piece will work to transcend over its course (including a siren—at times I feel as though the Jets and Sharks are duking it out in the streets of Tehran). The ney is actually a very subtle and delicate instrument, soft-spoken as almost no other, and its entrance makes a striking contrast to the preceding Sturm und Drang. I can only assume that the instrument is amplified, and I would love to examine the score to see how much of all the elaborate ornamentation and inflection is precisely notated, and how much left to the discretion of Khosrow Soltani, for whom the work was written. No matter what, the work has a sense of gentle, growing ecstasy in its first movement, feverish dance in its second, and ultimate calm in the third.


As usual the BMOP product is beautifully performed and produced. This is a successful entry in the “multicultural” category, but goes beyond just that to be strong, appealing music.


FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Persian Ney and Orchestra "Toward That Endless Plain" by Reza Vali
Performer:  Khosrow Soltani (Ney)
Conductor:  Gil Rose
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Modern Orchestra Project
2.
Folksongs Set no 8 by Reza Vali
Performer:  Janna Baty (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Gil Rose
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Modern Orchestra Project
3.
Folksongs Set no 14 by Reza Vali
Performer:  Janna Baty (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Gil Rose
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Modern Orchestra Project

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