Mystics and Lovers
Moshe DENBURG (b.1949)

Ani Ma-amin
(I Believe) (2002) [24:00]
Farshid SAMANDARI (b.1971)
(Monologues Aglow) (2006) [23:56]
Jamal Kurdistani (tenor)
Laudate Singers; Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra (VICO)/Lars Kaario
rec. 8-9 May 2015, BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts, Capilano University, North Vancouver, Canada
CHROMA DISC CD-MD001 [47:56]

Two 24-minute ethnically accented works. Non-severe classical idioms mesh with middle eastern material.

Moshe Denburg has Montreal Rabbinical roots. He came to Canada's west coast in 1982. His Jewish musical idiom is instantly evident in Ani Ma-amin with much use made of tangy ethnic instruments laid into a standard classical orchestra. Denburg is the founder of VICO. He has travelled widely and it is no surprise that he embraces a variety of instruments from non-Western cultures (East Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic). Ani Ma-amin sets words by Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) - a 12th century Hebrew philosopher - addressing Judaic articles of faith. The music is not difficult - far from it - and it flows with ease. The approach is rather like Rutter but with an emphatic middle-eastern sway. Embedded in the conventional orchestral canvas are ethnic instruments such as the gooho/erhu, dizi, danbau, oud, santur and tar. Denburg does not restrict himself to instruments associated with Jewish culture. The five movements of the work are 1. Graceful; Resolute; 2. Serene; 3. Joyful; 4. Affirming; Fervent; 5. Supplication. These have the feeling of felicitous devotional with dance, march and supplicatory incidents and a final visionary-atmospheric section.

Farshid Samandari was born in Iran and has a Bah’i background. He has been active in Vancouver's musical life and is now studying for a DMA in Composition at the University of British Columbia. He won an Olympic commission from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and this was premiered in 2007. Asheghaneh is in three sections: 1. A day time plea; 2. A night-time agony and 3. A breeze of joy. A day time plea has the feeling of a reverent processional but one that gains in lavish eloquence as it progresses. The vocal burden is carried almost equally between Jamal Kurdistani and the Laudate Singers. Rhythmically hypnotic elements dominate A night-time agony. A breeze of joy is memorable for its initial sleepy imploring tenderness and its echoing dialogue between solo and choir. Samandari also uses ethnic instruments throughout. The words - reflecting on aspects of love - are by a Sufi troubadour who frequented Azerbaijan and Kurdistan.

All the words are printed in the fold-out insert alongside some background on the composers and these pieces. No timings are given. I had to resort to the readout on my CD player for the details given in the heading.

Two works of cultural fusion with echoes of David Fanshawe's world-music. It's a tough crossing to ford but there are attractive ideas here and the music is warmly recorded.

Rob Barnett