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Harvey: Bhakti [CD]

Jonathan Harvey Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 11.13 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Jonathan Harvey b.1939 - d.2012

Born in Warwickshire in 1939, Jonathan Harvey was a chorister at St Michael's College, Tenbury and later a major music scholar at St John's College, Cambridge. He gained doctorates from the Universities of Glasgow and Cambridge and, on the advice of Benjamin Britten, also studied privately with Erwin Stein and Hans Keller. He was a Harkness Fellow ... Read more in Amazon's Jonathan Harvey Store

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Spectrum
  • Conductor: Guy Protheroe
  • Composer: Jonathan Dean Harvey
  • Audio CD (28 Jan 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: NMC
  • ASIN: B000007W81
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 171,263 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid Atonal Ambience 17 April 2009
By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
This gorgeous work of Harvey's is from 1982, and is item 1 in the catalogue of the marvellous NMC label, a charity dedicated to keeping the works of contemporary British composers in circulation.

This work is a careful blending of small chamber ensemble with IRCAM electronics. The soundworld created is a full merging rather than one aspect being an embellishment of the other. Although the work is entirely atonal, it is atonal music in its most easily assimalable sense. No vague twisting themes to struggle to identify and follow, or tortuous counterpoint to keep track of. Just rich and novel sounds, chords and textures, packaged and sequenced in a gracefully unfolding narrative series of highly atmospheric tableaux. As such, it has more in common with the more seriously exploratory kinds of ambient electronic music, but the acoustic instrumental aspect imbues it with an expressiveness and delicate dramatic quality that pure electronics can never quite achieve. Also the IRCAM electronica has an individuality and subtlety of sound synthesis that even the most sophisticated commercial synths don't provide. I would be intrigued to know more about the processes whereby sounds are developed in the IRCAM environment, because I know from hard experience that building truly interesting electronic sounds is an artform in its own right, distinct from and every bit as demanding as composition itself. It must be said, that being of simple musical form, one is unlikely to hear new things in the work, or hear the work in new ways with repeated listenings. As such it is more a piece of master craftsmanship than an abstract artwork. Despite that, it can evoke some very still but vividly beautiful mindstates.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong piece for ensemble and electronics 26 Oct 2009
By Christopher Culver - Published on
Format:Audio CD
Jonathan Harvey is an English composer who, after a career as an oboist and Stockhausen scholar, first gained wide attention in the late 1970s when the Ardittis commissioned his first string quartet. Like the spectralist composers, Harvey has a great interest in the nature of sound and has worked at IRCAM. However, he has maintained an interest in serialism with its associated soundworld of pointillism and angularity. One might compare him to Philippe Manoury. However, what really sets Harvey apart from anyone else in that whole French scene are his mystical inclinations. Indeed, Harvey sees the purpose of his work as expressing the spirit and seeking wholeness, and this contemplativeness comes through in the music. "Bhakti" for chamber orchestra and quadriphonic tape (1982) is an ambitious suite of 12 movements inspired by the hymns of the Rig Veda.

"Bhakti" has one of contemporary music's most memorable openings, which Harvey intends to represent the Rig Veda's creation myth. A woodwind intones a single mid-frequency tone, beginning almost inaudibly quiet. Minutes go by, with steadily growing dynamic as this basic tone is eventually by a very low and a very high sound. Unlike music of the classical era, where everything seems built on top of a bass, Harvey conceives a tonal center that expands outwards on both sides. Towards the end of this first movement, the rest of the ensemble appear.

The second movement introduces electronics as a source of novel timbres unobtainable with only a traditional ensemble. The electronic part are also spatialized here, its sounds bouncing around the four speakers. Here we have only a stereo recording, but the effect is still lovely. All in all, the movements of "Bhakti" are quite varied. Some are dramatic, full of crashes and epiphanies. Others are calm and contemplative, like musical gardens. While Harvey doesn't work with clear themes as such, references to earlier movements appear in later movements.

One generally looks to Amazon reviews to decide whether to obtain a work and listen to it, but this is music very difficult to describe with words. Even comparisons to other contemporary pieces are difficult to draw, I can think only of the opening of Xenakis "La Legende d'Eer" for the seventh movement of Harvey's work. Still, I'm confident that this will appeal to the majority fans of modernist repertoire. I do think that the piece tends to be a bit overlong, thus I award it 4 stars, but I still enjoy it greatly.

This Naive recording was made at IRCAM and sounds fantastic. The Nouvel Ensemble Modern have committed themselves to this kind of repertoire and perform confidently here. There is one another recording of "Bhakti" on an an NMC disc, where Guy Protheroe conducts the ensemble Spectrum, but I have no heard it.
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