Ensemble Tirana

Chants Polyphoniqes d'Albanie

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If you've never heard polyphonic singing, an ancient tradition that survives in parts of Europe and (somewhat differently) in the Greek Orthodox liturgy, it is hard to describe. It's a cappella, led by one singer carrying an almost chanted melody. The other three or four singers (usually men) back up the leader with an unearthly combination of parts, some in harmony, some in counterpoint, that sounds like nothing so much as a human pipe organ. Ensemble Tirana is an Albanian polyphonic group consisting of six men and one woman who offer up beautiful music, by turns sobbing, martial, tender, sacred. One track, "Do Te Marr Dhe une Male," was recorded in a reverberant acoustic (perhaps a church), and the background vocals sound like violins. Like many of the most exalted pieces on the album, this one is led by mezzo-soprano Irini Qirjako, who is allowed the one solo vocal number on the album, a haunting lullaby. You may have heard other polyphonic groups, especially Tenores di Bitti. If you liked them, you will love Ensemble Tirana.