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Night Prayers

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 6, 1994
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Collaborating with the Tuvan singers, a Latvian cantor and soprano Dawn Upshaw, the internationally-renowned Kronos Quartet performs music from the former Soviet state, a haunting collection of songs and laments joining traditional music with classical composition.
Genre: Classical Music
Media Format: Compact Disk
Rating:
Release Date: 6-SEP-1994

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One of the five most acclaimed New Music chamber ensembles in the world, Kronos Quartet has recorded music from every period, from Machaut to Wagner to Hendrix to Dun. Their Night Prayers collection--which features mainly Eastern European composers--peaks with Sofia Gubaidulina's bristling Quartet No. 4. Expert at traditional instrumentation and composition, Gubaidulina scripts the piece's early parts with vaguely balalaika-like tones that morph into mid- range, stretched notes. The quartet's underlying structure becomes a skittering display of plucked, repetitive notes against which the strings variously slash, sweep, and chatter. Gubaidulina's summation of late-century chamber work is more than striking. --Andrew Bartlett
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 6, 1994)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000005J2X
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,851 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
The Kronos Quartet will doubtlessly maintain a unique place in music history as the most innovative, risk-taking, humanistic fine group of musicians ever known. Not only is their ability to perform standard works excellent, but they have always stretched that virtuosity to explore rarely heard and even commissioned works by composers including some not known to the Western world at least.

NIGHT PRAYERS is as fine an example of their artistic strategy as any of the many recordings they have made. Though the works on this recording are truly meant to be performance art (the lighting and placement of the quartet and soloists on stage is a prime importance), this brilliant CD at least captures for posterity the beauty of the works they have performed.

The driving force of these varied works is to present music that is spiritual in a way many of us have never experienced. The works are primarily from the depths of Russia and Siberia and Eastern European countries influenced by the nomadic oriental sounds of a world practically unknown to us. Opening the recital is 'Kongerei', a traditional work from Tuva in Mongolia and is fascinatingly intoned by throat singers capable of producing multiple pitches (allowing themselves to harmonize with themselves!) simultaneously with the cello providing the ground bass.

This strangely haunting work is followed by Uzbekistani Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky's setting of the 'Lacyrmosa'. The soloist, aptly, is Dawn Upshaw whose quiet clearly focused voice is surrounded in beauty by the minimalist quartet writing. 'Mugam Sayagi' by Azerbaijani Franghiz Ali-Zadeh is based on 16th century secret language of Islam and is primarily a solo cello work with minor filigree work from the violin. The stunning Quartet No.
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Format: Audio CD
NIGHT PRAYERS is a collection of pieces performed by Kronos Quartet whose binding theme is Central Asia. With the exception of Osvaldo Golijov, hailing from Argentina but of Russian-Jewish heritage, all the composers represented here were born in the former Soviet republics east of the Black Sea.

The disc opens with "Kongerei", a traditional song from Tuva sung by the Throat Singers of Tuva with the simplest of accompaniment by Kronos. The song is a lament for the Tuvans who, because of the arbitrary nature of international borders, are stuck in China unable to see the whole breadth of their ancestral homeland. While it is entertaining, the inclusion of this song smacks of world-music crossover gimmickry.

"Lacrymosa" by Uzbekistani composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky is a frenetic piece for string quartet and soprano, based on a portion of the "Dies Irae" sequence of the Requiem Mass. Dawn Upshaw performs the vocal part. The texture of the work is reminiscent of the oeuvre of Arvo Part, but more astringent. I was quite impressed by the piece and look forward to hearing more of the work of Yanov-Yanovsky.

The Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh contributes "Mugam Sayagi", inspired by the Azerbaijani tradition of disguising songs of love from a man to a woman as a hymn to their god. The work is elegantly structured, a long drone from the cello representing a morning call to prayer before the rest of the quartet responds in passionate dance-like music and cadenzas, and finally a return to solo cello as an evocation of the evening call to prayer. This is a compelling work, probably the most pleasant surprise on the disc, though a bit overlong.

Sofia Gubaidulina's "String Quartet No. 4" is, I believe, the most important of the pieces here.
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