Origin Classical: from Seventeenth Century lutes to Berio on morphine

C. Michael Bailey By

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The Seattle-based record label Origin is making its bid to become the American ECM (or Winter and Winter), dividing the label's efforts between refined, eclectic jazz and edgy, progressive classical composition and performance. Origin's jazz roster is well known while Origin Classical is a more recent phenomenon. Two Origin Classical recordings illustrate the the polar nature of modern classical performance, that of Seventeenth Century song and Twenty First Century post modern display.

Linda Tsatsanis and John Lenti

And I Remain: Three Love Stories - Music of the Seventeenth Century for Voice and Lute

Origin Classical


Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century vocal music with lute or theorbo has been enjoying a modern renaissance as evidenced by the recent releases of Monika Mauch and Nigel North's Musical Banquet (ECM, 2008) and Nigel North's Dowland recordings for Naxos. This is period music that immediately evokes images such as those captured in Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth (William Morrow, 1989) and its sequel World Without End (Penguin, 2007). This is old music that is strikingly plaintive and melancholy, even when intended to be happy.

Nigel North student John Lenti and Canadian soprano Linda Tsatsanis assemble a clever collection of lute songs from the French, English, and Italian traditions. All are songs of love and requite, beautifully antique and not anachronistic. The French compositional contingent is represented by Michele Lambert, followed by Sebastien Le Camus and Robert de Visee. Particularly charming is the opening Spring duo by Lambert, "Doux Charme du Printemps" ("Sweet Charm of Spring") and "Le Printemps et L'amour" ("Springtime and Love"). Love and pain are in the air and inseparable as Tsatsanis sings of zephyrs and the sweetness of spring. Lenti's performance of John Dowland's galliards (dances) are as sprite and fresh as Tsatsanis' love of spring. Her Dowland is uniformly fine even in the bleak confines of "In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell."

The least represented here are the Italian songs, but those chosen are splendid. Jacopo Peri's "Hor Che Gli Augelli" ("Now That the Birds") is simple in form making Lenti's and Tsatsanis' delivery that much more crystalline. Claudio Monteverdi's lengthy "Lamento D'Arianna" ("Ariadne's Lament" from his opera L'Arianna (1608) is beautifully transformed from the stage to the salon. These two young musicians are going far to put the Northwest on the musical map.

Visit Linda Tsatsanis and John Lenti on the Web.

Daniel Barry

Music of the Spheres

Origin Classical

Multi-instrumentalist Daniel Barry takes the opposite tack of Tsatsanis and Lenti by composing for the future and his approach is novel. Barry recorded Music of the Spheres in a two-million gallon cistern found on the grounds of the Fort Warden State Park in Port Townsend, Washington. The empty cistern has a natural 45-minute reverberation time that surrounds and extends all sounds made not unlike depressing a piano's sustain pedal to the nth degree. Barry used this unusual environment to investigate the tonal palette of the five instrumental families (brass, winds, string, percussion, and electronics). Added to these is voice rounding out an approach to composition and performance recalling Luciano Berio's Sequenzas.

For this unusual recital, Barry composed 13 relatively short pieces featuring one of the instrumental families. "Zen 5" features Barry's coronet. James Dejoie's clarinet is showcased on "3 Orbs." The cistern sonics have a way of extending sound and mimicking monophony as in Plainchant, characteristics amplified by the recording confines. Regarding the Berio comparison, Barry's compositions are as narrowly defined as Berio's, but lacking the latter's complexity. Barry's compositions sound like Berio on morphine, underwater. And this is not a bad thing. These pieces make for great ambient music that would have a home on Hearts of Space. I am not sure I would classify this music as "classical." It is music that is pure, rendered in a certain place at a certain time.

Visit Daniel Barry on the Web.

Tracks and Personnel

And I Remain: Three Love Stories

Tracks: Doux Charme du Printemps; Le Printemps et L'amour; Ah! Que Vous Ates Heureux!; Chaconne; Laissez Durer la Nuit; Que Ta Voix Divine Me Touche!; Frogg Galliard; A Galliard; The Earle of Essex Galliard; Can She Excuse My Wrongs; Shall I Strive With Wordes to Move; A Dream; In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell; Come Again: Sweet Love Doth Now Invite; Hor Che Gli Augelli; Piangono al Pianger Mio; Quest'humil Fera; Arpeggiata a Mio Modo.

Personnel: Linda Tsatanis; soprano; John Lenti: lute and theorbo.

Music of the Spheres

Tracks: Zen 5; The Kasbah Awakes; 3 Orbs; The Thin Veil; Quasar Dance; Bloodgutter Gossip; Sa-Bai-Dee; Angels and Devils; Penultimate Ladder; Pan's Grotto; Sister Norbert's Triumph; Smoke Rings; Sonic Graffiti. .

Personnel: Daniel Barry: cornet, trombone, khaen, percussion; James Dejoie: clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, flute, percussion; Alicia Allen: violin, voice, percussion; Dave Pascal: voice, percussion digital tambora, audio engineering.

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