Jonathan Harvey 2 | Erik Satie | Astor Piazolla | Musica Humana | Frederick Tullis


Bhakti/Nouvel Ensemble Moderne,Lorraine Vaillancourt/(Auvidis Montaigne MO7820086)

Borrowing from 20th century mystical and transcendent stylistic models like Holst and Stockhausen, Jonathan Harvey is Britain's modern-day master of live and electronic methods. Ancient Sanskrit Rig Veda hymns append all but one of the 12 Bhakti (a Hindu religious term) movements and the music ranges from simple, suggesting similarity to new, sacred minimalists like Part and Taverner, to the incredibly complex, each hymn's images is responded to by tone, harmonics and dissonance. Through playback and manipulation of a tape recording of sounds made by an instrumental ensemble and mixed by computer, Harvey pushes beyond instrumental scale to something more universal. A strangely disarming but sometimes agonizing conceptual listen, just when you think you've heard piercing strings you realize it's tape spooling at high speed. Worth your patience.



Complete Works for Piano/Dominique Merlet & Jean-Pierre Armengaud/(MANDALA MAN4882)

Mentor of the composers known as Les Six, Alfred Leslie Satie's piano pieces combine fantastic wit, melancholy and eccentricity. Parade, included here, is perhaps his best known orchestral-balletic work. Its original libretto, concocted by Satie's pals Picasso and Cocteau, included a typewriter among other sound effects to provide an atmospheric background for its characters. We find a company of actors parading by, giving extracts from their numbers in an attempt to attract an audience to their show. Cocteau once exclaimed: "I just can't get Satie to realize that this Parade is just as much mine as his and Picasso's!" Above all, this music is evocative of pre-WW1 France and so representative of an artistic era: You hear a similar breadth of activity in Satie as you see in Degas, a contemporary. Impressionist tones, soft sculptures, informal ballet, pastel scenes of busy work-a-day Parisian. You can just about stretch to scratchy B&W newsreel footage of the period patron Degas, heavily bearded, busily hoarding yet another classic French painting into his Paris flat-come-hermitage collection, many of which were sold off at bargain prices to collectors when German guns rolled into Paris. Satie's discovery of Jelly Roll Morton and early jazz is unmistakable. Very highly recommended for a whimsical evening in or, better yet, as a luxurious warm-up before reviewing the film Delicatessen, also highly recommended.


Tango/Concerto for bandoneon/Tres movimentos tanguisticos/Pablo Mainetti, Orquestra de Cambra/Josep Pons/(Harmonia Mundi HMC901595)

Tango evokes '40s film noir passion, sexy, desolate, distinctly Argentinian Latin. Mainetti brings it back from the bordello, smouldering across your living room dance floor.


Recontres de Musique Médiévale du Thoronet/(L'empreinte digitale/Harmonia Mundi ED13047)

Recorded over three years of an annual festival in the Thoronet French abbey, Musica Humana is a collection of medieval music ranging from eerie vocal motets and chants to Middle Eastern folk dances performed with traditional instruments. Great acoustics, fabulous obscure music vividly brought to life.


Freedom/(New World Records NW80455-2)

Frederick Charles Tillis, South Texan jazz player turns Massachusetts European classicist. Freedom is Southern spiritual meets Aaron Copeland for chorus and occasional sax solo. Unpretentious, indigenous; a true American travelogue.