In 1984, the German label ECM initiated its NEW SERIES to promote the ‘neo-spiritual’ music of such greats as Arvo Pärt & Giya Kancheli. Their style was considered kitschy at the time, but later they grew into highly lauded composers. The Greek-German composer and conductor Konstantia Gourzi (1962) is undeniably a kindred spirit.
Anájikon is named after the string quartet of the same name from 2015, part of her cycle about angels. Under the subtitle ‘The Angel in the Blue Garden’, Gourzi takes us through an idyllic, highly consonant soundscape in three movements. The four strings seem to compete over who can play the most beautiful melody, accompanied by repeated notes from the others.
The four-movement cycle Ny-él, Two Angels in the White Garden for orchestra also belongs to the angel series, but has a slightly different character. Sliding lines, furious rhythms and exuberant use of drums and bells create an archaic sound world that recalls the traditional music of Greece.
In the opening piece Hommage à Mozart, viola and piano circle each other with melodies built on church scales. The simple, repetitive motifs are reminiscent of the solemn singing of the Orthodox rite; Mozart seems galaxies away.
The performances are exemplary, the recording techniques is crystal clear though not sterile. The continuous euphony makes one yearn for some shrieking dissonance that might give the music a bit more spunk.
Despite the ominous clouds on the sleeve, Anájikon is ideal for those who like to immerse themselves in a sound world where the sun always seems to shine.
Thank you, Thea! I didn’t know this composer or her works. There’s a YouTube video advertising her new CD. It only contains snippets of the works but they do all sound “sunny.”
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