Lechner and Tsabropoulos - Chants, Hymns and Dances
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Anja Lechner and Vassilis Tsabropoulos
Chants, Hymns and Dances
ECM (www.ecmrecords.com)

cd cover Armenian-born philosopher Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c. 1877-1949) traveled widely in the Caucasus, the Near East, and Central Asia on a spiritual quest chronicled in his "Meetings with Remarkable Men." Ending his wandering in the 1920s, Gurdjieff settled in the City of Light and gathered adherents (many of them writers, artists, dancers and musicians), presiding over his Paris compound as an avatar, composer and teacher of "temple dances" intended to induce a deeper spiritual awareness in his followers.

Gurdjieff, who sang in a Russian Orthodox Church choir as a youth, would hum or whistle brief passages recalled from his travels, and his musical associate, Ukrainian-born pianist Thomas Alexandrovich Hartmann, would notate and develop the fragments into coherent melodies intended for improvisation. First meeting in St. Petersburg in 1916, they worked together for a dozen years, in a partnership deepened via Hartmann's exposure to Armenian folk music at Gurdjieff's urging.

Their collaboration produced a body of work little known outside Gurdjieff devotional circles. Shortly after the master's death, Hartmann privately recorded some of their work from the mid-1920s. Gurdjieff Society members in London later introduced the music to Keith Jarrett, whose work to restore the original Hartmann discs reflected his own interest in Sufism and Gurdjieff. Jarrett later recorded Sacred Hymns of G.I. Gurdjieff (ECM), which brought this music to a wider audience.

On Chants, Hymns and Dances, German cellist Anja Lechner and Greek pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos invoke a shared background in European classicism, tango, and the folk traditions of Greece, Armenia and Ukraine. They approach Gurdjieff as musical rather than spiritual seekers, while including several Tsabropoulos compositions inspired by both Gurdjieff and Byzantine liturgical music. The sinuous resonance of piano and cello weaves a spare but expressive dialogue, a dark meditation upon delicately patterned modal forms whose warmth, tonality and graceful strength infuse an elegant synthesis neither East nor West. Theirs is an evocative concordance whose tender melancholy and forward-looking spirit issue from a distant and enigmatic locale beyond space and time, music for a world that has lost its way. - Michael Stone

CD available from cdRoots

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