“Occident & Orient” [TrackList follows] – Mendelssohn Chamber Orch. Leipzig/Aurélien Bello/ Kinan Azmeh, clarinet – The Berliner Direct to Disc Recordings BMS 1203 V vinyl [www.berliner-meister-schallplatten.de] *****:
Don’t expect to hear anything by Mendelssohn here from the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra. The closest one comes on this new direct disc is a delightful chamber version of Beethoven’s Marcia alla turca. All six selections here—including even a march by Lully—are in a general Middle Eastern genre. Even on an inexpensive turntable setup you should be able to hear the increased realism of the chamber orchestra’s performances. One of the first giveaways is the very long breaks between tracks—not the usual five seconds—but much longer so the performers can line up their music and get read for the next selection—there is no stopping or editing anywhere on a side of the vinyl. The pressure on the musicians is enormous.
The two selections on the first side are from the Syrian clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh. He was the first Arab musician to win first prize in the Robinstein International Youth Competition in Moscow. He wants to transcend the barriers of cultural disparities and misconceptions, to establish a civilized communication which builds on what brings humans closer together rather than what separates them. The first selection, Wedding may remind one of a Jewish wedding in some spots, but is not that Hebrew; others are different but there’s not doubt this is generally of Middle East origin. November 22 evidently refers to some important date to Syrians. Both tracks feature the terrific clarinet solos of Azmeh, backed by the fine orchestra.
The second and last tracks on Side Two are by percussionist/composer Peter A. Bauer. Among other things, he teaches workshops in the use of percussion in Renaissance and Baroque Music. The second track, Persia, is redolent of that country’s musical style. The last track: yo dis dis ya digge, has a continous ostinato figure in the bass, with Azmeh’s clarinet solo hovering over it, along with native drum percussion. Percussionist Bauer has a fascinating short video on various percussion instruments on You Tube, and he’s also heard on a Raum Klang German CD titled Somnambul – Music for Percussion.
The “you are there” quality of these direct discs makes all the efforts involved in their production worthwhile.
Azmeh: Wedding; Azmeh: November 22; Lully: Marche pour le ceremonie des Turcs; Bauer: Persia; Beethoven: Marcia alla turca; Bauer: you dis dis ya digge.