A Story of The City: Constantinople, Istanbul – Schola Cantorum/ Ensemble Trinitas/ The New England Drums and Winds Mehterhane/ DÜNYA New Music Ensemble/ DÜNYA Ince Saz Ensemble/ DÜNYA Anadolu Folk Ensemble/ DÜNYA Fasil Ensemble/ DÜNYA Arabesk Ensemble/ Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, dir. – Dünya Inc. (2 CDs), 100:34 ***1/2:
Amazingly, these are Boston-based musicians who have attempted to trace the musical history of one of the greatest cities of all time over two discs, something that might seem an all too formidable challenge at first glance. But in celebration of the city’s status—and it is one of the most important in all of history, affecting the three main monotheistic religions and serving as the capital of the Roman Empire for a thousand years—it is well worth the attempt. Even though I don’t quite agree with some of the selections—it is highly unlikely that Phos hilaron (Joyful Light, one of the oldest Christian hymns) would ever have been played instrumentally, used here as an unlikely example of “Byzantine Palace” music (they could have chosen some more legitimate examples), overall the selections are well-paced and placed, and should provide much enjoyment for musical historians and those willing to stretch their ears a bit.
Each disc takes as its theme the city itself—first Constantinople, and then Istanbul on disc two—and one could make the argument that the Constantinople section should have been longer as that name itself lasted three times as long, the Roman Empire finally falling in 1453 before the Turks took over—but this is a quibble on an otherwise fine production that stands as quite unique in the catalog. The sound is somewhat caustic at times but lowering the volume helps and ultimately it is not a problem with proper knob management. Performances are generally very good though with some of this music that might be hard to judge. This is not for everyone, but for many it will be a pleasing and ear-opening experience.
An excellent survey of a favorite Chopin genre…