Three new classical discs feature artists collaborating across genres

09.22.08
Kayhan Kalhor & Brooklyn Rider
The Star-Ledger

"Silent City" Kayhan Kalhor, kamancheh/setar; Brooklyn Rider; Siamak Aghaei, santur; Jeff Beecher, double-bass; Mark Suter, percussion (World Village) FOUR STARS

Kayhan Kalhor, 45, is an Iranian composer and virtuoso of the kamancheh, a Persian upright fiddle with a crying, human sound. A key member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project, Kalhor prefigured Ma's cross-cultural ideals with his Indo-Persian duo Ghazal. This engrossing disc sees him collaborate with the young string quartet Brooklyn Rider, its members also Silk Road veterans.

The album opens with a dramatic arrangement of the Persian traditional "Ascending Bird," the timbres of the Eastern and Western strings weaving together beautifully (and caught ideally by the recording, made in a New Jersey studio). The centerpiece is Kalhor's 29-minute "The Silent City," an intense lament for the Kurdish village of Halabja in Iraq, where Sadaam Hussein killed 5,000 with chemical weapons. This studio version is longer and more atmospheric than the previous Silk Road live recording, although the emotion still builds like an Eastern version of Barber's Adagio.

Kalhor switches to the lute-like setar for the mysterious "Parvaz," while Brooklyn Rider's Colin Jacobsen contributes a piece that blends the Middle East with the medieval West: "Beloved, Do Not Let Me Be Discouraged," an epic, hypnotic instrumental love song.