A Far Cry / David Krakauer

Dreams & Prayers

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This release by Boston string orchestra A Far Cry is ecumenical in intent, with a pair of pieces involving Christian spirituality bookending works of Islamic and Jewish origin. It doesn't work particularly well in fulfilling that intention; the works involved are too specific, personal, and even idiosyncratic to be representative of religious traditions, or even of the idea of spirituality itself. The album works better in pieces, however. A Far Cry is a virtuoso group of young string players who can do different kinds of music well, and they sound terrific. The "Heiliger Dankgesang" slow movement of Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132, has rarely or never been played by a string orchestra, and that's a mystery: it loses none of its power this way, unlike the spiky Grosse Fuge, Op. 133. Likewise the "Jewish" work, Osvaldo Golijov's The Dreams & Prayers of Isaac the Blind, one of the pieces that put this Argentine composer on the map when klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer played it with the Kronos Quartet; the arrangement for clarinet and orchestra here, by Golijov himself, if anything heightens the klezmer elements. Perhaps the most interesting pieces is Vecd, a work commissioned by A Far Cry from Turkish American composer Mehmet Ali Sanlikol. This piece draws inspiration from the tradition of the so-called whirling dervishes, but partially replaces Near Eastern elements with American jazz. It's probably going to be very much like nothing one has heard before. The album as a whole may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is both original and beautifully executed.

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