Flores de Espana
Chant 1450
Mahmoud Turkmani (oud)
rec. St Germanus, Seewen, Switzerland, February 2011, January 2012

Eros and Thanatos
Chant 1450
Ken Zuckerman (sarod)
rec. Kleincomburg, Schwabisch Hall, Germany, May and September 2013

These discs continue the apparently currently popular theme of bringing two different musical worlds together and blending them. The four voices that comprise Chant 1450 are robust and powerful. They have, perhaps, a slightly harsh timbre, but not unpleasantly so. It actually seems to work well for this type of music, lending it an element of raw passion.

Flores de Espana is subtitled Orient and Occident in Spanish Renaissance and the aim is to draw together and blend the Western sacred a capella music with the Arabic music also prevalent in Spain at that time, here represented by the oud performances. The oud sometimes overlays the Gregorian chants and sometimes appears as solos (as, indeed, we found with the sarod in Eros and Thanatos). The sacred music comprises motets in adoration of the Virgin Mary, alongside works specifically composed for liturgical occasions – composers represented include Johannes Anchieta, Antonio Ribera and Pedro de Escobar; while the Gregorian chant is of the Hieronymite Toledo tradition. The oud solos are especially composed for the recording, with an element of improvisation and spontaneity thus ensuring that they remain true to their roots.

I very much enjoyed the disc and found the mixture of two different worlds interesting and exciting; yet whilst the oud solos greatly impress and delight, the episodes in which the oud overlays the Gregorian chant do not entirely convince – the music that the oud plays is too disparate and bears too little relation to the chant for it to fully blend and work. The disc is reasonably well-presented, with brief but fairly informative notes in several languages, words and lists of musical sources, albeit no artist biographies.

Eros and Thanatos takes an even more unusual approach. It uses the Gregorian sixteenth-century nocturnal matin for All Soul’s Day “In crastino omnium defunctorum ad matutinum” from a manuscript found in Toledo Cathedral, and replaces the long Psalms and readings that would conventionally form part of the service with four-part love songs by the Spanish poet and composer, Juan del Enzina, and with improvisations from player of the traditional Indian sarod, Ken Zuckerman.

The thinking behind these rather unexpected juxtapositions is two-fold; firstly, the Northern Indian improvisations are likened to the plainchant in that both Indian ragas and the plainchant use a limited number of modes, and, secondly, the love songs and sarod improvisations are intended to contrast the chants for the dead in their vibrancy and celebration of life and love.

Often, the sarod episodes overlay the plainchant in a meeting of two very different worlds. The love songs are beautifully performed – the acoustic is resonant and Chant 1450 blend beautifully. The plainchant is also well-performed, and the sarod playing is impressive; sometimes, in the solo interludes, quite virtuosic.

Again, though I much enjoyed listening to this disc, I am not wholly convinced that it works; there is no problem with the interspersing of the plainchant with the love songs (although the sound worlds – both in terms of genres and in terms of the different voicings – are very different), nor with the solo sarod works giving a very great contrast of texture, style, sound and feel; but the sarod playing actually overlaying the plainchant is perhaps just a step too far – trying to unite elements that are just too disparate to work with complete harmony.

The jury is out on these – listeners will have to decide for themselves whether this is a delightful melding of worlds or just too wacky to work!

Em Marshall-Luck
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Flores de Espana
Plainchant Kyrie in festivitatibus [3.56]
Johannes ANCHIETA (1462-1523) Domine Jesu Christe [3.11]
Mahmoud TURKMANI Alil [2.11]
Plainchant Gloria in festivitatibus Bearissime Virginis Marie [5.40]
Antonio RIBERA (early 16th century) Rex autem David [2.25]
Mahmoud TURKMANI Fikra [3.12]
Anonymous (c.1500) In passione Domini [3.10]
Pedro DE ESCOBAR (c 1465 -1535) Stabat mater [3.46]
Mahmoud TURKMANI Akid [4.21]
Plainchant (c.1500) Sequentia [2.57]
Mahmoud TURKMANI Ghamza [3.24]
Plainchant (c.1500) Sanctus de Beatissima Maria [5.18]
Johannes ANCHIETA (1462-1523) Virgo et mater [2.43]
MILANS (early 16th century) O rex noster [3.13]
Mahmoud TURKMANI Sarsara [2.15]
Antonio RIBERA (early 16th century) Ave Maria [2.l9]
Plainchant (c1500) Agnus Dei in testivitatibus [5.40]

Eros and Thanatos
Antiphon Dirige Domine, Sarod 1  [2:46]
Antiphon Convertere Domine, Juan DEL ENZINA Pues que jamas olvidaros [4:52]
Antiphon Nequando rapiat ut leo, Sarod 11 [2:28]
Sarod III Dansa desiderans [4:05]
Juan DEL ENZINA Mi libertad en sosiego [2:09]
Responsorium Credo quod redemptor [4:00]
Sarod IV Qui Lazarum resuscitasti Prelude [0:51]
Responsorium Qui Lazarum resuscitasti [2:48]
Juan DEL ENZINA Los sospiros no sosiegan [3:28]
Responsorium Domine quando veneris [6:51]
Antiphon In loco pascuae, Juan DEL ENZINA Non quiero que me consienta [4:30]
Antiphon Delicta iuventutis, Sarod V [2:12]
Antiphon Credo videre, Juan DEL ENZINA Mortal tristura me dieron [4:52]
Sarod VI Esperanza  [3:30]
Juan DEL ENZINA Quedate, csrillo, adios [2:54]
Responsorium Memento mei Deus [2:10]
Sarod VII Hei mihi Prelude [0:51]
Responsorium Hei mihi [3:39]
Juan DEL ENZINA Razon que fuerra no quiere [3:38]
Responsorium Ne recorderis [5:37]