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Anja Lechner / François Couturier: Moderato cantabile

Hrayr Attarian By

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On Moderato Cantabile cellist Anja Lechner and pianist Francois Couturier interpret music that is simultaneously spiritual and folklore-ish with supple eloquence and sophisticated vibrancy. Intermixed with works from Greco-Russian guru George Gurdjieff, Armenian musicologist Komitas and Spanish composer Federico Mompou are Couturier's own jazz inflected pieces that maintain the overall mystical theme of the release.

Gurdjieff was not a formerly trained musician. Most of his oeuvre, therefore, consists of central Asian folk melodies infused with his own ethereal esoterism that he hummed from memory for composer Thomas de Hartmann to write down and harmonize. Lechner and Couturier make Gurdjieff's four hymns shimmer with an eastern lyricism as they overlap lilting, melancholic phrases weaving them into multi-textured sublime poetry. On "Hymn #8 Night Procession" for instance, Couturier's cascading notes envelope Lechner's resonant strings. Her cello's mellifluous and intimate chant fills the dramatic ambience that Couturier creates with his percussive chords.

Komitas, an ordained priest and musical scholar, was the first to notate many secular Armenian folk songs, bringing to them a sacred undercurrent. One of these "Chinar Es" is performed with a creative modernism without losing sight of its timeless essence. Couturier's rhythmic refrains form a pastoral backdrop for Lechner, whose strings dance with an exquisite mélange of wistfulness and joyful abandon.

Couturier's own cinematic tunes bring a subtle but definite improvisational rigor to the recording. The intense "Soleil Rouge" evolves into an atmospheric crystallize jazzy solo while "Papillons"' angular structure features Lechner's flittering lines filled with hints of thrilling dissonance.

Impressionistic composer Mompou's deceptively simple and elegant opus is infused with an exquisite minimalism and Catalan traditional motifs. His "Impresiones Intimas #8, Secreto" for example is intimately emotive and intriguingly cerebral. Lechner's pizzicato tones alternate with Couturier's sparse chiming keys creating an expectant and mysterious mood. Her elegiac reverberations and his hypnotic echoing vamps lay down a captivating, empyrean yet a deeply visceral melody

On this uniquely superb and compelling disc Lechner and Couturier have brought together gems from artistic heritages on the edges of the western classical canon and shed a distinctly 21st century light on them. The result makes for an enchanting and inspirational listening experience and an album that delights anew with each spin.

Track Listing: Sayyid chant and dance no. 3 / Hymn no. 7; Voyage; Chinar es; Canción y danza VI; Música Callada XXVIII / Impresiones intimas I; Soleil rouge; Papillons; Hymn no. 8 / Night procession; No. 11 / Fêtest lointaines no. 3; Impresiones intimas VIII "Secreto."

Personnel: Anja Lechner: violoncello; François Couturier: piano.

Title: Moderato cantabile | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: ECM Records

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