Aashenayi: Rencontre musicale en terre Ottomane Como ponden [4:09]
Rast nakis beste [5:49]
Dar DÔmanÚ SahrÔ [10:44]
Sareri hovin mernem [6:17]
Der makam [3:23]
Nor Tsaghik [6:26]
BegŘn Benim EfkÔrum Var Zarim [5:21]
La comida d’la ma˝ana [4:05]
Durme, hermoza donzella [7:27]
Sńqi ba khoda [8:26]
Offondo do mar tan chao [5:28]
Canticum Novum/Emmanuel Bardon
rec. 2014, PrieurÚ de Champdieu, France AMBRONAY AMY043 [75:39]
Aashenayi is a title which seems to guarantee this album coming at the top of your downloaded albums list but the word means ‘encounter’ in Persian — “an encounter with music from a vast territory, the empire over which the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent reigned in the 16th century, which then extended from Europe to Iran, from West to East.”
Canticum Novum has been in existence since 1996, exploring links between music in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Silk Road of the Orient. There is a vast resource of music covered by this terrain, much of it transmitted through the ages via an aural tradition. The music, if notated, appears as a single melodic line without further embelishments, but the richness of sonority in these performances show how far removed from reality such a ‘score’ in fact is. I performed as a flautist for many years in a similar ensemble but always felt a bit of a fraud for not knowing the music by heart. Learning about the remarkable rhythmic and melodic variety in these pieces shows us from where the authentic sounds of historical performance were derived when the movement began in earnest in the middle of the 20th century, and its complexities can show us that there is little new under the sun when it comes to avant-garde composing today.
Emmanuel Bardon is not really interested in attempting a historical re-enactment of ancient music. These performances take the basic tools of the original songs, and with a team of like-minded musicians create an experience which is both enjoyable in its own right, and whets our appetite for more. Gently swinging percussion, the sparkle and resonance of plucked strings, the unusual timbres of exotic scales and vocal messages which have a poetry all of their own combine to deliver something very special indeed. Most of these pieces begin with improvisations out of which the songs emerge like plants from fertile soil. The texts are often about lost love and yearnings, but even though a variety of woes are expressed you don’t come away feeling depressed. There is a spirit of defiant survival in music which mourns, but somehow always retains a sense of character and strength – a resistance to sentimentality. The most atmospheric, such as Sareri hovin mernem, unfold over a single drone, the voice alternating with instruments which imitate and improvise their mourning with equal restraint but with equally potent emotional depth.
The programme is a good mixture of songs both deeply affecting and rousingly rhythmical, such as the up-tempo BegŘn Benim EfkÔrim Var Zarim or La Comida d’la ma˝ana, and there is always a strong instrumental presence in all of these vocal numbers. The beauty of simple songs such as Nor Tsaghik comes from its elegant melodic line of course, but the transparency of the accompaniment and the luminous effect of a flute in unison with the voice combine to create something really magical. Texts are all given, and translated into French and English.
If you like recordings such as Rolf Lislevand’s Nuove Musiche then this isn’t a million miles away in terms of a general vibe of discovery and inventive musicianship: with different sonorities and instruments, but all the more interesting for that. If you like ‘early music’ then you owe it to yourself to find out a little more about where a big chunk of it comes from, or might have come from beyond the Gregorian and Germanic traditions which still have an unshakeable hold on our perspectives up here in Northern Europe.