Burhan Oçal Sufi-Ensemble / Howard Griffiths / Die Freitagsakademie

Sufi/Bach: Orient Meets Occident

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The title Sufi/Bach: Orient Meets Occident seems to promise a bit more than it can deliver, and indeed, this recording may contain something less than the live concerts on which they were based. Those concerts took place in the summer of 2008 in Zurich, Switzerland, under the auspices of Zurich's Pocket Opera Company, and were held in the Kirche Neumünster. The aim, in a part of the world not noted for its friendliness to multiculturalism, was certainly laudable, and the theme of mysticism, which has often been noted as a bridge of commonalities across different faiths, is surely deepened by music, which has played a role in all mystic traditions. But the contributions made by the album are at the most general level. It's not really clear why Bach, two of whose cantatas frame a series of vocal and instrumental Sufi pieces, should have been chosen as more mystical than other Western composers; in the Baroque, Biber would have seemed a likelier choice. In concert, the music was apparently accompanied by commentary on both Bach's music, and the Sufi pieces, performed by a group of Turkish musicians. The booklet explains the devotional and ecstatic themes of the Sufi poetry that is sung, but texts are given (and translated into English) only for the Bach cantatas; the Sufi texts are only summarized. For the attitude of mystic devotion, which takes off from very specific events in a musical experience, this is not so helpful. As with Bach, it's not clear how the Sufi music heard here differs from the system of Turkish classical improvisation, which, to the Western listener, it superficially resembles. These factors combine to make this release most useful to those with a direct connection to the concerts on which the album was based.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Cantata BWV 93 Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten
1 5:34
2 1:46
3 2:42
4 2:22
5 2:22
6 2:37
7 0:58
8 2:32
9 2:24
10 1:13
11 2:22
12 2:18
13 4:38
14 2:19
15 3:21
16 2:34
Cantata BWV 107 Was willst du dich betrüben
17 3:48
18 0:56
19 2:46
20 2:20
21 2:37
22 2:34
23 1:52
blue highlight denotes track pick