The Argentine-Israeli-Russian composer Osvaldo Golijov outdoes himself with Ayre, a collection of...well, of what, exactly? Arrangements of Mediterranean folk songs? They're more than that; the Sephardic, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic songs included here are thoroughly reworked and even made to overlap. Some are traditional, some are contemporary. And the instrumentation is varied; it includes -- and this is going to be the tough part for traditional concert audiences -- a laptop computer churning out dance electronics on the fast festive pieces and ambient sounds on the slower ones. The piece is loosely centered on Spain and its multicultural history. Oddly enough, among Golijov's works, this one has the most in common with the Kronos Quartet's Nuevo album of Mexican music, for which Golijov was credited merely as an arranger. Golijov himself would revel in the contradiction; one thing he's trying to do is question the role of the composer and his or her relationship to the wider musical world. Ayre is paired here with Luciano Berio's Folk Songs of 1974 and was written as a companion piece to it. One way to get your mind around what Golijov is trying to do is to compare the two; Berio turned to an international group of folk songs in search of musical essentials that might replace sterile serialist models. Golijov, in his growing body of work, seems to rejoin that there are no musical essentials except for the worlds of popular music that surround the concert tradition. Astor Piazzolla's tango and its fusion of the classical and popular worlds likely made a strong impression on Golijov. He finds an ideal collaborator in soprano Dawn Upshaw, a consistently adventurous vocal artist who can sound like a Spanish gypsy singer, a young Arab girl, or an American Appalachian singer in Berio's fascinating reading of Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair as required. The Andalucian Dogs accompanimental group includes flute, clarinet, horn, viola, cello, bass, harp, guitar, "hyper-accordion," and percussion in addition to the electronics. Fascinating, and at all times highly listenable.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Ayre, for voice & chamber ensemble|
|Folk Songs, arranged for soprano & 7 instruments (or orchestra)|