Music from Davos

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In typical fashion, Leo Feigin found what no one else would have dared dream existed: a recorded jam session by two of Russia's greatest living composers and two musical innovators who entered the fray seamlessly and contributed greatly. This CD was recorded at the Sixth Davos Festival in Russia. It brought together Sofia Gubaidulina and Victor Suslin with Mark Pekarsky and Valentina Ponomareva for an hour of completely improvised music on Caucasian and Central Asian folk instruments, such as dumbek, kemanchas, recorders, whistles, tars, autoharps, duduk, signal horns, bells of various sorts, and some new instruments from India such as tabla agogo, gopi, Jew's harp, and more. The results are four pieces of absolutely stirring beauty and creative invention from composers who had begun preparing themselves, in a way -- the story is in the liner notes -- to be improvisers in a band, some 16 years before. The music is quiet yet moves quickly in places and has great dramatic tension. There is no rhythm or meter because it is almost all rhythm. Stringed instruments as well as whistles and bells are used sparingly, and contribute more as drones for the percussion instruments to reveal their deeper shades. Ponomareva's voice, a languid soprano, is the timbral instrument; her wordless improvisations offer a tonal picture for cohesiveness to the airy and multivalent nature of this performance. (Think of Julie Tippet in a relaxed mode and you get the idea.) Divided into four sections, the audience gets a chance to catch its breath before being once again plunged into a world so mysterious and absent of identifiable language -- even to the performers -- it has to communicate by nuance, timbral echo, resonance, and deep listening. There are no rules but there are sightless guides in the differing tonalities of the instruments that had been experimented with for over a decade. The music made by Astreja here is unlike anything made by the composers in their formal works; it is unlike anything ever made anywhere, and is justifiably a treasure of this age.

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