A fascinating new project by German cellist Anja Lechner and Greek pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos, destined to be one of most popular New Series recordings of the season.
'Chants, Hymns and Dances' could be subtitled "Music from the Crossroads of the World". It is a project that blurs the dividing lines between East and West, between composition and arrangement and improvisation, and between contemporary and traditional music.
This magical musical journey has a highly attractive simplicity, restraint and purity that can speak to any listener who likes Erik Satie, or, on the other hand, Anouar Brahem. At its centre are compositions by Tsabropoulos, which take as their inspirational starting point ancient Byzantine hymns, and music by the Armenian-born philosopher-composer Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c.1877-1949) which draws upon melodies and rhythms, both sacred and secular, of the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia.
Largely as a result of ECM's advocacy, Gurdjieff's music found a larger audience from the 1980s onwards. Keith Jarrett's Sacred Hymns of G.I. Gurdjieff sold thousands and launched a "boom" for Gurdjieff - further boosted by Peter Brook's film 'Meetings with Remarkable Men'.
The Byzantine hymns which Vassilis Tsabropoulos has set for the duo - some of them 2000 years old - are irreducible masterpieces of proportion, their sense of balance, as well as their interweaving of modes and melodic lines, informing the history of composition.
Both musicians are well-known to ECM listeners: Lechner through recordings with the Rosamunde Quartet (including the popular post-Tango Nuevo Kultrum collaboration with Dino Saluzzi) and Ukrainian pianist Misha Alperin; and Tsabropoulos with his acclaimed solo album 'Akroasis' and on jazz albums with bassist Arild Andersen and drummer John Marshall, most recently 'The Triangle.'
Anja Lechner - (cello), Vassilis Tsabropoulos - (piano)