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Mishory: Psalms, Fugitive Pieces / Berger, Auritus Quartet

Mishory / Berger / Auritus Quartett
Release Date: 11/22/2011 
Label:  Neos   Catalog #: 11022  
Composer:  Gilead Mishory
Performer:  Gilead MishoryJulius Berger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Auritus String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MISHORY Psalm 1. Fugitive Pieces 2. Psalm 3 1 Auritus Str Qrt; 2,3 Gilead Mishory (pn); 3 Julius Berger (vc) NEOS 11022 (70:18)

Gilead Mishory (b.1960) is a fine pianist as well as composer, as a Read more spin of his disc of Haydn piano sonatas on Tudor (reviewed by James H. North in Fanfare 21:5) attests, as does his disc of Bartók violin sonatas for the same label (with violinst Saschko Gawriloff, reviewed by Robert Maxham, Fanfare 23: 3). Born in 1960 in Jerusalem, he studied with Gerhard Oppitz (on Brendel’s recommendation) and then with Hans Legraf at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Mishory finds inspiration in literature; the Fugitive Pieces on the current disc are after a novel by Anne Michaels, for example. The relevant texts for the pieces on this disc are printed in the booklet.

The first Psalm we hear dates from 2005, and is for string quartet after poems by Paul Celan. The writing of the first movement is complex, and negotiated with impressive concentration by the Auritus Quartet (whose members are drawn from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, so the excellence should come as no surprise). The players, too, project the eerily shifting final pages,where solo lines intertwine over beautifully articulated, mezza voce repeated chords. Mishory leaves the listener wanting more, and it is this longing that takes us into the second movement, itself, like the work as a whole, titled “Psalm.” Mishory has the players recite (declaim) the words as Sprechgesang , adding an extra layer to the sonics available to him. The use of microtones (invoking the Jewish tradition) rubs against Christian elements (Praetorius). This is fascinating terrain. Mishory is able to allude to traditions, including tonal ones, and incorporate them into his modernist soundscape with ease. Mishory reflects the bleakness of the landscape as well as making, to my ears, reference to Bartók’s quartet writing. The ghostly playing here of the Auritus Quartet is simply stunning.

Contrasting sonically with this is the solo piano cycle Fugitive Pieces (2005), inspired by Anne Michaels’s novel of that name (although resonances of Prokofiev can also be found). Again, there are quotations from other composers, masterfully rendered. Unsurprisingly, Mishory is his own best advocate.There is a composer’s understanding in this beautifully recorded performance. Quotations take on a bittersweet quality, a distancing before they melt back into Mishory’s mode of expression. Evocative quotations enhance the experience. The sheer loneliness of the movement titled “Decrescendo” is palpable; again, Bartók is brought to mind in “Russian Dolls” (this time the Bartók is that of Mikrokosmos ). If the mention of stars (movement 14) invites, and receives, Messiaen, the grief of “Ghetto-Lullaby” is all Mishory’s own (the movement carries a quotation from Michaels, “The grief we carry, anybody’s grief ... is exactly that of an unborn child.”) The heavy simplicity of the stasis of the final section, “Bell” (“I know, suddenly, my sister is dead”) seems the perfect end.

The nearly 20-minute Psalm for cello and piano of 2003 takes the Pslams of David as its inspiration and takes in the traditional Christian responses of doubt as well as blind faith. It is a rather beautiful piece, especially when played as well as this. The German cellist Julius Berger, a pupil of Antonio Janigro and Zara Nelsova, is supremely eloquent; if it weren’t a cliché to state that he makes his cello sing, I’d write it. His control of harmonics is remarkable. This is the most intimate of the pieces on the disc in its quieter moments, but it also encompasses Tom and Jerry-like chases between cello and piano as well as angst. The cello solo ruminations are a wonder; one can only listen in awe of Berger’s excellence.

The Neos label is tremendous in its repertoire choices as well as its presentation, choice of artists, and recording standards. These are Bavarian Radio recordings, superbly produced.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Psalm for String Quartet by Gilead Mishory
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Auritus String Quartet
Written: 2005 
Fugitive Pieces (18) for Piano by Gilead Mishory
Performer:  Gilead Mishory (Piano)
Written: 2004-2005 
Psalm for Cello and Piano by Gilead Mishory
Performer:  Gilead Mishory (Piano), Julius Berger (Cello)
Written: 2003 

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