Ritual III: Borges Fragment (1992)
For Solo Cello (5:26)
Written for the Bulgarian cellist Kalina Krusteva, this is the third piece in the Ritual series, solo works attempting to describe a near-mystical space. As in many of Arnaoudov's pieces, a sense of timelessness is established through the gradual accumulation and extension of a musical idea. Here, the cello is used at first to create a space filled with soft undulations, the music rolling back and forth like the waves of a dark ocean, its limits marked by the gentle plucking of strings. A gradual increase in tempo frees the music to explore a bit, and it begins to cycle through anxious excursions into the higher register alternating with sudden plunges back into the depths. Finally stability is reached, and a lovely lyricism emerges just as the piece begins to dissipate its energies, fading back into an ocean of slow waves.
The overall effect is peaceful and yet slightly apprehensive; there is a sense of communion shadowed by the awareness of impermanence -- an appropriately Borgesian sentiment.
|Compositions: Track Listing
1. The Circle of Rites
For soprano and chamber ensemble
2. Ritual I
For solo piano
3. Ritual II: Incarnation dans la lumiere
For solo piano
4. Ritual III: Borges Fragment
For solo cello
5. Kyrie (Summe Deus)
For soprano and chamber ensemble
Musica Nova -- Ensemble
Emilia Maximova -- Soprano
Christo Pavlov -- Flute
Boyan Vodenicharov -- Piano
Kalina Krusteva -- Cello
Ritual III was composed together with Ritual II and bears also the title Borges-Fragment for solo cello. The author says that this work is "a gesture of reason and mind in our striving after God. A gesture of Borges, of his Babylonian Universe, of the Library with all the books in the World, of his Rose and of his alter ego."
Arnaoudov - Compositions / Musica Nova
Gheorghi Arnaoudov(Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1998
Our Price: $14.99 ~ You Save: $1.98\
Subdued but filled with a quiet intensity, the pieces on Compositions seem to exist in a world by themselves, inhabiting a space where Western and Eastern Europe have swirled together to create something new. Removed a few steps from easy familiarity and possessing the innate strangeness of the other, Arnaoudov's music seems to exist in a timeless, universal space that recalls some distant dream -- it is not difficult to see why Arnaoudov is attracted to surrealist paintings, to ancient languages, and to the mystery of religious rites. Indeed, the cycle of Ritual pieces are particularly effective in creating moods of otherworldly calm; focused meditations occasionally broken by spiky dissonances or passages of percussive piano. These are framed by two chamber works for soprano voice. Based on Sanskrit texts and Gregorian chant, they combine a sublime beauty with a sense of religious longing, skillfully avoiding all the clichés that so often place this kind of music in the New Age bin. And unlike the music of Arvo Pärt, another "mystical" composer to whom he is sometimes compared, Arnaoudov's music contains more awareness of human weakness and imperfection. While the music may strive toward a state of mystical apprehension, it is also burdened by the foreknowledge of innate loss: we can strive for union with the numinous, but the gulf can never be truly crossed. This element of desire, of melancholy, and even frustration lends a unique sense of passion and humanity to his work.
Although a few instruments seem miked a bit closely, the CD has overall been recorded very well, and the playing is all top-notch. (Kalina Krusteva plays cello with Saint Martin in the Fields.) I do wish for better liner notes, however; the information provided is a bit sketchy, and neither text is provided for the vocal works. Still, this disc serves as an excellent introduction to a composer who deserves a wider audience in the West.
|Other Arnaoudov CDs of Interest:
Arnaoudov: Empire of Light / Angela Tosheva
Gheorghi Arnaoudov(Composer), Angela Tosheva (Performer) / Audio CD / Released 1997
Our Price: $14.99 ~ You Save: $1.98
While containing no Borges works specifically, Arnaoudov's other major release provides another sampling of his unique music, here focusing on the piano. While generally less turbulent and perhaps more uniform than the works on Compositions, each piece still manages to convey much of the same tranquility, longing, and passion as those in the Gega set. (Ritual I and Ritual II are present on both collections; here Angela Tosheva takes them slower than Boyan Vodenicharov, and, in my opinion, shows greater sensitivity to the material.)
I highly recommend this disc as well as Compositions, especially to those seeking something new in modern piano works. Released by Concord Records, The Empire of Light also has superior packaging and liner notes.