New Jewish Music Vol.3 – Sharon Azrieli; Krisztina Szabó; Nouvel Ensemble Moderne; Lorraine Vaillancourt

The Azrieli Foundation has released their recording of this year’s composition prize for new Jewish music, along with recordings of commissioned works in the categories of Canadian Composition and Jewish Music: Yotam Haber’s Estro Poetico-armonico III  in the latter, Keiko Devaux’s instrumental work Arras in the Canadian category. Yitzhak Yedid’s Kadosh Kadosh and Cursed won the prize for an existing work of Jewish Music. Dissidence, a concise and somewhat anachronistic work for small orchestra and soprano (Sharon Azrieli, a fine soprano and founder of the prize) by the late Pierre Mercure, rounds out the disc.

Kadosh… is concerned with Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the place shared as sacred by three major religions. Embattled chattering and shouts introduce Yedid’s work, followed by brassy bombast and unison modal melody in alternation, depicting conflict, even violence. A middle section provides relief, insofar as mourning relieves cataclysm. The individual players of Montreal’s excellent Nouvel Ensemble Moderne get a brief chance to sing before hostilities recommence, devolve into a nasty Hora, returning tragically to increasing strife. By the end of the movement, we’re hoping, nay praying for peace. Hope deferred, the heart is sick. A chant melody in the piano calls through maddened violin scratches and braying brass. Yedid seems pessimistic; in spite (or because) of the spiritual importance of the Temple Mount, hostilities persist.

The formidable mezzo Kristina Szabó joins the ensemble for Haber’s work, a complex piece with so much historical/textual weight it deserves a review unto itself. Highly effective writing.

Arras is a woven tableau, relying on breath and bow effects, microtonal vibrato and dissonances, and shifting background textures to frame lush, even lurid melody. A single movement of nearly 25 minutes’ length, it makes a patient argument for beauty.

Originally published in The Whole Note. View the original article here.