Hungarian composer Tibor Szemzo offers this small collection of his most important compositions from the years 1992-97. Among them is "The Other Shore," for human voices and small ensembles that has been performed over the globe, and here is executed effortlessly by the Gordian Knot Company. The other works included here are "Symultan" for human voices and different sound, and "Gull" for choral variation for string quartet and tabla. "The Other Shore" is a translated work of the 25th chapter of The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law, recited by the people of Kyoto Kiyomizu-Dera Temple with the Gordian Knot Ensemble providing musical accompaniment. It is essentially a treatise delivered by the Buddha on the Bodhisattva Regarder of the Cries-Of-The-World, a Buddhist saint who refuses his or her own enlightenment until all other sentient beings have attained theirs, doing all she or he can to help them attain such a state. It's a long text, recited in Japanese with an ensemble comprised of strings, small percussion, electric bass, and Szemzo on bass flute. Its beauty is profound, striking, and haunting. Szemzo is a composer for whom assonance and harmony are everything. And this is wise given the aural spoken text so prevalent in his work. The Japanese recitation balanced against the droning strings and microtonalities of the flute and percussion instruments created a soundworld where the Buddha himself can inhabit because of its spaciousness. It's a place for the mind to rest and open. The "Symultan" for "human voices and different sound" encompasses many different spoken texts: members of a Gypsy community discussing life under both fascism and communism, the hardships of daily life and family losses that are survived by a resilience of their belief in a power greater than themselves that restores them daily. The various sound devices -- echo boxes, field recordings, modulation effects, etc., and lone bass flute -- are by Szemzo himself. The work ends with a haunting, bittersweet question called the "Hitler Ballad," that simply asks what survives of the gypsy community, and where the remains of the rest are buried. It is chilling in its simplicity, like Gorécki, but with less dynamics or intentional drama. "Gull," performed by the Moyzes Quartet with tabla, is a single movement work in which three phrases are strung together, modulated by their shared timbres and then elongated before rotating into other spaces and becoming part of the preceding one until it passes from earshot as itself. The drum marks not only time, however, but modality as well; the somber strings become more emotive, carrying inside them various colors and shades of memory and reverence. At just over 16-minutes, it is the most beautiful work here and closes the album. It is a bridge between the two polar extremes of hope and despair that occurred earlier on this recording. And in its simplicity lies a hush that exhales so slowly to carry out the final droning notes, we cannot mistake that we have departed from the world of audible sound and entered into the deafening universe of total silence.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek