In Search of the Miraculous
Featuring music composed by Fazil Say,
Vache Sharafyan, Rabih Abou Khalil,
Alan Hovhaness, John Surman and Siobhan Cleary.
Performed by Hilliard Ensemble, Elisaveta Blumina
EQ Ensemble, John Feeley
Compact Disc (Audio)
Louth Contemporary Music
Gramophone July 2013 Fifth recording project from cult Irish music promoter
The Louth Contemporary Music Society continues to explore and unearth hidden and often unclassifiable gems from the contemporary music repertoire on its latest release, ‘In Search of the Miraculous.’ The title takes its inspiration from the Armenian-born mystic George Gurdjieff (1866-1949). Gurdjeiff developed a holistic mind-body theory in his writings called ‘The Fourth Way’, based on years of travelling and studying Eastern religion and spirituality. ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ presents a kind of musical Fourth Way by drawing together East and West, experimental and avant-garde, ambient, minimalist and improvisational traditions.
With such a mix of styles on display, it’s maybe no surprise that not every piece strikes the right chord, but the hits are greater than the misses. Fazil Say’s Black Earth resorts at times to clichéd neo-romantic sweeps but starts and ends evocatively by imitating the sound of the Turkish lute-like sax on muted piano strings. Elisaveta Blumina offers a more measured performance than Say’s here, and also pulls off an excellent performance of a Chaconne by Siobhán Cleary. Cleary’s composition is a compelling study in stasis and movement, while oud virtuoso Rabih Abou Khalil’s Dreams of a Dying City – a 13-minutes ‘improvisation’ on a 14 beat ground bass- seems less certain of the direction it is taking. Weird sub-bass dissonances are heard on Armenian composer Vache Sharafyan’s Tsov Kentsaghuis for voices and tape, performed by the ubiquitous Hilliard Ensemble, while the layered interlocking patterns in English saxophonist John Surman’s Eastern-tinged Leylek Geldi provides a lighter touch to conclude proceedings. If a musical Fourth Way isn’t charted on In Search of the Miraculous’, it is certainly worth exploring.
Pwyll ap Siôn
The Irish Times Review 1 February 2013
Elisaveta Blumina, John Feeley, Pavlos Kanellakis, Hilliard Ensemble, EQ EnsembleLouth Contemporary Music Society LCMS1301 ****
There are piano pieces by Fazil Say, Alan Hovhaness and Siobhán Cleary, vocal pieces by Vache Sharafyan, works for string ensemble by Rabih Abou Khalil and John Surman, and a two-guitar work by Say. Louth Contemporary Music Society’s new CD, with an image of Gurdjieff on the cover is as adventurous as ever, and comes without notes to explain the rationale of the musical choices. The music, recorded with close- focused, grainy immediacy, is full of oriental inflections, and the one piece without a descriptive title, Cleary’s Chaconne, the first Irish piece espoused on disc by the Society, with its sometimes disturbed ruminations, somehow fits into the overall atmosphere. Michael Dervan
About the Recording
At the core of In Search of the Miraculous is a search for unity. The album’s various and varied parts come from as far apart as Lebanon and County Sligo in Ireland, but they share a certain passion to excavate deep into the musical material, as if to reveal its inner spirit. In this enchanting new album, distant musical cousins — both composers and performers — are brought together to reveal their common ground as much to complement each other through contrasts.
Consistent with the intertwining of musical threads throughout the compositions, the In Search of the Miraculous recording brings together a collection of instrumental and vocal performers from Ireland, England, Russia and Greece, and all of the highest calibre.
The EQ Ensemble, bringing together some of Ireland’s finest string players, strikes a balance between formal restraint and ecstatic release in works such as Mimosa and Leylek Geldi, by the English saxophone player and composer John Surman, or in Lebanese composer Rabih Abou Khalil’s soaring Dreams of a Dying City, which itself evokes its composer’s celebrated oud playing.
The Russian pianist Elisaveta Blumina now resident in Dublin brings both strong statements and mere whispers to the album, from the declamatory first chords of Turkish composer Fazil Say’s Black Earth to the Armenian-American Alan Hovhaness’s expansive work To Hiroshige’s Cat and Sligo-based composer Siobhán Cleary’s reflective, searching Chaconne. We glimpse a different side to Fazil Say in his work for two guitars Princess of Lykia, deftly performed here by John Feeley and Pavlos Kanellakis.
The revered English vocal group the Hilliard Ensemble provide a different shade entirely, with the mysterious and captivating works of Vache Sharafyan from Armenia. Helped by the measured intensity of the Hilliard’s voices, as well as subtle, almost concealed, electronics, Sharafyan ellicits a beguiling texture in which the text of The Sea of Our Life is Troubling Me is magnified through song.
In Search of the Miraculous is the latest release from the Louth Contemporary Music Society, a small, hardworking music organisation that has engaged an enthusiastic new audience with its richly ambitious programming, bringing inspirational musicians such as Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass and John Zorn to the East Coast of Ireland over the last seven years.
In Search of the Miraculous follows four previous discs released by Irish concert promoters, Louth Contemporary Music Society, each extremely well-received. A Place Between (LCMS901), Path (LCMS1001), Night Music (LCMS1201) and Metamorphoses(LCMS1202) likewise featured premiere recordings, by composers such as Sir John Tavener, Henryk Górecki, John Cage, Arvo Pärt, Alexander Knaifel, Valentin Silvestrov, Sofia Gubaidulina and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky.
Presented with funding from the Arts Council Music Recording Scheme, managed by Music Network.
Fazil Say (b. 1970)
1.Black Earth (1997) …………… 7.58
Vache Sharafyan ( b. 1966)
2. Ter, vor i mej le-rinn (Lord who makes the spring run from the mountain stones)
The Hilliard Ensemble
Rabih Abou Khalil ( b. 1957)
3. Dreams of a Dying City (1990)…………….. 12.59
Alan Hovhaness (1911 – 2000 )
4. To Hiroshige’s Cat (1982)…………………….. 7.20
John Surman ( b. 1944)
5. Mimosa (2008) ………………………………………………. 4.16
Fazil Say ( b. 1970)
6. Princess of Lykia (2009) ……………………… 10.11
John Feeley and Pavlos Kanellakis
Vache Sharafyan (1966)
7. Tsov Kentsaghuis (The sea of our life is troubling me…) ( 2003) ………….5.49
The Hilliard Ensemble + Tape
Siobhán Cleary ( b. 1970)
8. Chaconne ( 2007) ………………………………..5.22
John Surman ( b. 1944)
9. Leylek Geldi (2006) ……………………………………….5.25