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A deep, reverent journey through central asia
on April 10, 2001
This collection from the Kronos Quartet presents works from Tuva in Western Siberia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia, and includes Jewish, Islamic and both Catholic and Orthodox Christian themes.
The Throat Singers of Tuva create a ritual opening to the sacred with their opening "Kongerei." You'll have to turn up the volume to hear the lovely but faint soprano voice of Dawn Upshaw singing "Lacrymosa," from the Catholic mass. "Mugum Sayagi," by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, an Azeri woman composer, begins softly, and then breaks out in virtuosic cadenzas, expressing "the ecstatic longing of a man for a woman expressed as the love of God," an example of the secret Azeri musical tradition of the 16th century used to evade Islamic strictures.
Sofia Gubaidulina, the Russian/Tartar woman composer, contributes her masterful "Quartet No. 4" to the album, the most complex, modern piece here, and absolutely wonderful, though a little out of place with the other more folk-influenced works. "A Cool Wind Is Blowing," by the Armenian composer Tigran Tahmizyan, is my personal favorite -- only 4 minutes long, based on an ancient folk tune, it is haunting and memorable. "K'VARAKAT" features the lovely vocals of a Jewish cantor, and was commissioned for the dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. Finally, the title piece, Kancheli's "Night Prayers," is a mournful and beautiful work that evokes "sadness, compassion and hope" in the words of the Georgian composer.
There is much silence and space here, evoking the desert, the mountains, and the steppe. The album is powerfully effective if you surrender to its dark, somber mood. NIGHT PRAYERS is tremendously relevant nowadays, addressing the common human condition across cultures and faiths. It could not be more ideal to accompany reflection and meditation on compassion, tolerance, and PEACE.