Classical CDs Round-Up 13

10.23.10
Gidon Kremer
The Arts Desk

By Graham Rickson

Hymns and Prayers: Music by Tickmayer, Franck and Kancheli Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica (ECM)

There is a fascinatingly eclectic programme on Gidon Kremer’s latest ECM release, with the contemporary minimalism of Kancheli and Tickmayer linked by César Franck’s 1879 Piano Quintet. Serbian composer Steven Kovacs Tickmayer’s Eight Hymns in Memoriam Andrei Tarkovsky dates from 2004. With Kremer’s eloquent solo violin line sparely accompanied by piano and vibraphone, it’s exquisitely unnerving music; slow bittersweet harmonic progressions suggest the leisurely pace of Tarkovsky’s films, and the concluding Molto semplice section, full of ponticello judderings, leaves a peculiar, haunting aftertaste. Giya Kancheli, born in Georgia in 1935 is another "holy minimalist". His 2007 Silent Prayer is dedicated to Kremer and also to the 80th birthday of Mstistlav Rostropovich (who died that year). Even more than Tickmayer, this unsettling work seems to be throwing down a gauntlet to the listener: at what point does music like this become naïve and simplistic? On the surface so many aspects seem superficial and even corny. But somehow it works. Kancheli is canny enough to inject just enough harmonic edginess and slow-burning drama, and the eerie pre-recorded voice of Sofia Altunashvili still haunts me.

Franck’s Quintet is given a full-blooded, exciting reading here, and the central Lento, con moto sentimento possesses a near-erotic charge. Kremer never steals the limelight, and Khatia Buniatishvili’s piano playing is staggering, especially in the last movement’s delirious coda. Recording and production are excellent.