Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Northern Harvest


I was sitting on my balcony today, drinking an Old Fashioned made from the superb Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, a blended Canadian whisky that was named by Jim Murray's Whisky Bible the World Whisky of the Year in November 2015. It was a windy afternoon, and I enjoyed watching the huge Garry oaks and plane trees and horse chestnuts swaying in beautiful Victoria below, with the whitecaps on the Juan de Fuca Strait beyond. I love this drink, an absolute classic of the genre (one of six basic drinks listed in David A. Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks), and I noticed that the more I drank, the more I loved it. Tasty at the first sip, then better and better, and extra super-duper amazing as the ice melted and there was only the maraschino cherry left. *

This is the way I felt when I listened to the new Kamram Ince disc, Passion and Dreams. There are complicated cross-cultural calculations to be made when one listens to the music of this American composer of Turkish heritage. Sure, a focus on "exoticism" or "orientalism" betrays what Lawrence Kramer, in Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge, calls "cultural supremacy by which Europe subsumes and organizes the non-European world." On the other hand, Ince is mining various Western traditions to bulk up his music: mainly modernist: Stravinsky (everyone mines Stravinsky), Debussy, Webern, Berg, but also Bach (everyone mines Bach). And at the level where one just "enjoys" music, the encounter with new Turkish music might be seen as innocent as a teen from Africa or Oceania hearing Western pop music for the first time. Wow! This is cool!

So yes, this music is cool, and impressive. But like my Old Fashioned, it gets cooler and more impressive the more you listen. Dreamlines, which opens the disc, is an incantation and a blessing and a staking of territory, and a thanksgiving, and it sounds agitated and sad and holy, and "Turkish". By the time you get to Fortuna Sepio Nos, the piano, cello and oddly distorted clarinet are making an intoxicating multi-cultural row that's exciting and scary, but, like Lady Luck finally saving the sailor from the storm, in the end comforting. And when I listen to the Partita in E Major, I'm in love. Ince's response to Bach, in a commission for violinist Cihat Askin in 2007, is a perfect dream, the kind you wake up from and desperately try to re-capture by falling asleep again. When you dig far enough down, perhaps all music, by all musicians in history, is just Bach re-mixed.

So, yeah, I'll go ahead and say I liked this disc.


Released June 24, 2016. Here's the liner booklet from the Innova site. They also have a track from the new disc you can listen to: the exciting Zamboturfidir VII, which sounds like today's Minimalism, but heard while driving a Corvette convertible on a two-lane highway in 1969.

* OK, the four maraschino cherries.

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