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If you’re a follower of the British television drama with which these ominously suggestive tracks enjoy a symbiotic relationship, they’ll call to mind the series’ moral conundrums and emotional intensity as effectively as they’re meant to. If, however, you’ve never seen it, this music will probably mean no more to you than Angelo Badalamenti’s best-known compositions mean to people who’ve never seen Twin Peaks. One difference: Whereas both soundtracks could make the benighted curious enough to give their respective shows a go, Broadchurch is actually worth watching.
Easter at Ephesus
“We seek to be what [Mary] was for the early Church,” reads the website of the order to which these singing nuns belong, “a loving and prayerful support to the Apostles, the first priests, and [we] daily offer prayer and sacrifice for the sake of her spiritual sons.” Heard in that spirit, these 27 a cappella performances should inspire even Protestants to fresh heights (and depths) of worship. The vast range of composers, meanwhile, should inspire musical archaeologists to fresh investigations of subjects too long off the radar.
The ancient Greek belief that a tarantula’s bite is fatal and that dancing the frenzied taranta provides a cure undergirds this attempt by the Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi “to bring the taranta to a more universal level by connecting it with music from West Africa and Turkey.” Do you have to share that belief to appreciate the degree to which Einaudi’s attempt has succeeded? No—or at least no more so than you have to believe that disco dancing equals liberation to appreciate the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Finding this hard-to-find album is well worth the effort if only to experience the unique beauty that China can contribute to the world-music tapestry. And “single string” does not mean single instrumentation. Accompanying Lei Ying (a former member of China’s 12 Girls Band) as she plays the one-stringed duxianqin is a full array of easy-listening accompanists. Purists would probably wish that those accompanists had lain lower, but less persnickety listeners won’t mind. As exotica for exotica’s sake goes, sounds this euphonious are rare.
It may be premature to say that the harp is enjoying a renaissance. But, at the very least, new albums by Eleonora Volpato (Musica per arpa [Tactus]) and the flute-viola-harp ensemble Fire Pink Trio (Poetry in Motion: Music for Flute, Viola, and Harp [MSR Classics]) suggest that such a rebirth would be a good thing if only because, unlike the repertoires available to and favored by pianists and orchestras, the harp repertoire remains unfamiliar enough to sound new even when it’s old.
It will be a long time, in other words, before the compositions of Cesare Galeotti, Virgilio Mortari, and Luigi Maurizio Tedeschi (Volpato) become cultural clichés and even longer for the more recent compositions of Manuel Moreno Buendía, Dan Locklair, and Sonny Burnette (Fire Pink Trio). Listeners who prefer relishing each crystalline note will prefer Volpato, who performs unaccompanied. They’ll shortchange themselves, however, if they bypass altogether the interactive wonders wrought by Fire Pink’s harpist Jacquelyn Bartlett.
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