L'Arte del Mondo / Werner Ehrhardt / Pera Ensemble

Harem: Les Fetes du Seraïlles

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Harem: Les fetes du seraïlles, a collaboration between the German ensemble L'Arte del Mondo and the Istanbul-based Pera-Ensemble, sets before itself the daunting task of examining the interaction between Austro-German and Turkish music, particularly during the Classical period (although some of the Turkish music was written much earlier). The album takes its title from a ballet by Mannheim composer Christian Cannabich and includes six excerpts from it. It also includes four vocal selections from Mozart's unfinished opera set in a harem, Zaïde. The remainder of the album is made up of music by Turkish composers from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, as well as pieces from folk traditions and solo improvisations. It's easier for a Westerner to detect the Eastern influences on Cannabich and Mozart than vice versa. The Cannabich, in particular, uses Eastern modal harmonies, and his exploitation of the possibilities of winds and a variety of "exotic" percussion instruments is evidence of the influence of the Turkish culture. The juxtaposition of contrasting pieces is musically interesting, but doesn't offer much in the way of clarifying the relationship between the cultures, and it's unclear how the subject of the harem relates to the Turkish music. Taken purely as a musical experience, though, the album is pleasing, and the performances by the two ensembles are effective and fully competent, if seldom blood-stirring. Since the Mozart and Cannabich are easily available on other CDs, the most interesting performances are those of Turkish music. The ensembles perform together on several tracks, a movement from the Cannabich, in which Pera-Ensemble has a brief interpolation in the middle, and a piece by the eighteenth century Tanburi Mustafa Cavus that actually integrates Western and Turkish instruments and is one of the most engaging works on the album. There is also something of a synthesis in two pieces by Polish composer Wojciech Bobowski, who emigrated to Istanbul and became a court musician, where he was known as Ali Ufki Bey, and transcribed Turkish folk music for Western instruments. The absence of more collaborations between the ensembles, though, seems like a missed opportunity.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Les Fêtes du Seraïlles, ballet
1
3:49
2
1:52
Zaide, opera, K. 344 (K. 336b)
3
6:13
4
1:43
5
3:34
Les Fêtes du Seraïlles, ballet
6
1:30
7
0:48
8
1:49
9
4:01
10
4:21
Les Fêtes du Seraïlles, ballet
11
1:03
Zaide, opera, K. 344 (K. 336b)
12
3:45
13
2:08
Les Fêtes du Seraïlles, ballet
14
2:01
15
2:02
16
4:57
Zaide, opera, K. 344 (K. 336b)
17
4:32
18
1:16
19
5:45
20
3:22
21
3:12
22
10:32
blue highlight denotes track pick