The 1st collaboration between The Hilliard Ensemble & Jan Garbarek, Officium, was hailed as an artistic triumph, storming onto classical, jazz and pop charts worldwide (and subsequently selling over a million copies). Over the last 5 years, they have played hundreds of concerts and recently documented the 2nd chapter of their musical journey. The double album, Mnemosyne (pronounced neh-MOSS-in-ee), is broader in scope than its predecessor, including expanded improvisation.
It's been six years since these same performers got together to create one of the decade's more unusual experiments in musical alchemy. Beginning with the raw materials of early music and modern jazz, the four male voices of the Hilliard Ensemble joined with jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek to see what would happen when the proper measure of old music and new style were combined, shaped by the performers' considerable experience and collective aesthetic vision. The success of that recording, titled Officium
, and subsequent concert performances paved the way for this second effort, continuing the performers' search for artistically meaningful, musically satisfying combinations of written music and improvisatory elements. The odd title of the new recording comes from a mystical poem by Friedrich Hölderlin, quoted in the liner notes and accompanied by pictures from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal
aficionados will notice that Mnemosyne
is even more adventurous in its explorations, which range farther and farther from the printed page. Musical fragments and a general outline are the starting points for several pieces. Improvisation is more frequently and freely employed, but always adheres to an agreed stylistic framework. Alongside a Tallis hymn or a chant by Hildegard, we hear Iroquois and Peruvian song fragments, an ancient Greek tune, and a beautiful lullaby by Veljo Tormis. Garbarek's tasteful improvisations are appropriate additions, inspired commentaries. The Hilliards are even better than on Officium
; their awareness and sensitivity brings everything together into a truly unified expression that shows the timelessness of music and reminds us that where rhythm, melody, and musical imagination join, different styles, centuries, and genres are not necessarily obstacles to compatibility. --David Vernier