The dialectic between the real thing -- whose hypnotic, moaning vocalism and exotic harmonies suggest a kind of suspended animation -- and its European derivatives creates a stimulating tension. Even more intriguing, the European works are performed with the Turkish percussion players, whose Eastern sense of rhythm . . . makes pieces like Mozart's Overture to the "Abduction from the Seraglio" sound almost as if they're swung by a big band.
Record Review /
Barrymore Laurence Scherer,
Wall Street Journal Leisure & Arts / 03. June 2003
. . . a spicy blend of the period instrument ensemble Concerto Köln and Sarband.
Record Review /
Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA) / 25. June 2003
The juxtaposition of selections, like the combination of two different ensembles, is more than the sum of its parts . . . It seems that the musicians learned something about music in blending their disparate styles.
Record Review /
J. F. Weber,
Fanfare (Tenafly, NJ) / 01. November 2003
"Dream of the Orient" is a concept album that works . . . Believe me, folks, the real Turkish music we hear on this disc is a far cry from its supposed Viennese counterpart, especially the hair-raising overture to "Die Entführung aus dem Serail". It's a fascinating disc.
Record Review /
Fanfare (Tenafly, NJ) / 01. November 2004
Original und originell, ein Kulturaustausch der besonderen Art. Concerto Kölns Debütalbum bei Archiv Produktion!
Record Review /
Fono Forum (Euskirchen) / 01. April 2003
Faszinierender Brückenschlag zwischen den Kulturen . . . 'Der Traum vom Orient' ¿ besser hätte der Titel der vorliegenden CD nicht gewählt werden können, verbinden sich, besser: stehen sich hier doch musikalische Kunstprodukte des klassischen Europas und traditionelle türkische Musik gegenüber . . . eine faszinierende Klangreise . . . Die Mischung aus vertrauten Opern-Klängen im Verbund mit originalen türkischen Schlaginstrumenten und rein türkischer Musik ist eine phänomenale Gradwanderung für das Ohr. Man merkt den Musikern an, mit welcher Freude sie ans Werk gingen. Mozarts Serail-Ouvertüre ist eine herrlich laute Sache, hier donnert die Schlag-Batterie, dass es eine reine Pracht und des Komponisten brieflich verbürgte Intention ist. Es ist der perfekte Traum vom Orient: Musiker des klassischen Repertoires treffen auf türkische Musiker und bilden eine mitreißend musikalische Symbiose. 'Concerto Köln' intoniert schlechterdings mit treusorgender Akkuratesse und absoluter Spielfreude. Die Dynamik lässt keine, aber auch wirklich keine Wünsche offen. Die Klangwelt des Ensembles 'Sarband' ist sicherlich für manches Ohr Neuland, aber ein äußerst fruchtbares und entdeckungswürdiges . . . Ein transparent ausgewogener Raumklang tut sein übriges, um diese Aufnahme als empfehlenswert zu deklarieren. Der perfekte Kulturaustausch.
Record Review /
Klassik.com / 22. April 2003
... man (kann) dieses wunderbare Dokument interkultureller Kompetenz gerade in so düsteren Zeiten nur wärmstens empfehlen.
Record Review /
Stereoplay (Stuttgart) / 01. May 2003
Eine herrlich kontrastreiche Produktion, die den Okzident vom Orient träumen lässt. Oder umgekehrt.
Record Review /
Badische Zeitung (Freiburg) / 10. June 2003
... sein Debüt-Album bei der Archiv Produktion ist im wörtlichen Sinne ein Paukenschlag.
Record Review /
Fono Forum (Euskirchen) / 01. July 2003
Ici ... court le fil précieux de la fraternité.
Record Review /
Ivan A. Alexandre,
Diapason (Paris) / 01. July 2003
Outre les performances de Sarband, il faut ajouter que le Concerto Köln, totalement débridé mais toujours, bien sûr, d'une justesse et d'une efficacité parfaites, confirme l'excellence du polymorphisme interprétatif redoutable qui fait aussi sa marque. Une belle découverte à faire.
Record Review /
Xavier de Gaulle,
Répertoire (Paris) / 01. July 2003
How our "Dream of the Orient" came true
Many of our recordings have evolved over a period of time, and this is certainly true of our "Dream of the Orient": some years ago, I was asked to devise a programme of music on the subject of the Orient. The result was a wonderful and varied concert with thematic links to the Orient, but it was not, of course, an oriental evening. Even so, it fired our imagination. Later, my colleague Jean-Michel Forest reminded me of another, much earlier concert at which we had recreated a historic encounter from the 17th century: a meeting between musicians from the court of the king of Siam and those of Louis XIV. This, too, had been an unforgettable journey back in musical time. Forest persisted and kept saying how wonderful it would be to organize a concert with Turkish musicians. But how were we to realize this? Then, at one of our annual Festtage Alter Musik in Cologne, one of the musicologists whom we had invited to participate in the proceedings, Karl Böhmer, gave us what proved to be the decisive tip and recommended the ethnomusicologist Vladimir Ivanoff, who runs a turco-German ensemble known as Sarband. I telephoned Ivanoff, and it was not long before we had agreed on a concept and a joint programme.
The programme would revolve around original 18th-century works that would be played, of course, on original instruments, allowing us to see these works in the most varied relationships with each other. The apt title - "Dream of the Orient" - was provided by our manager Olaf Lischke.
It was Vladimir Ivanoff himself who suggested that the members of his ensemble should not only play the "janissary music" - in other words, the percussion instruments - as was the custom with Turkish musicians in 18th-century operas, but that they should also perform original Turkish music. And it was suggested, finally, that Concerto Köln should join forces with Sarband in a number of the Turkish works on the programme.
We looked forward to the rehearsals for our first joint concert with some trepidation, and they certainly proved an adventure: the European players kept pressing forward and leaving behind them their Turkish colleagues, who had a completely different and more relaxed approach to questions of tempo, bringing to their work both time and, above all, a sense of composure. For them, it was completely absurd, when playing rhythm instruments in European works, to break down the music into bars: they had barely got into the swing of things when they had to stop, something unthinkable in Turkish music.
For our own part, we had difficulty performing the Turkish pieces as we played everything far too accurately with precisely divided intervals: the melodic line failed to flow in the way that it does in oriental music. Mutual politeness helped us to overcome our problems. But it was only at the concert itself that the real scale of our joint project became clear to us. We were profoundly impressed by our Turkish colleagues and realized that music can point up the differences between our two cultures in a far deeper and more multilayered way than words have ever been able to do - and this in spite of the fact that we were playing only 18th-century music. It was a fascinating insight. During the months and years that followed, our programme underwent a number of minor changes, but the initial concept was so successful that audiences were fascinated by it and kept asking us whether we might record the programme.
The fascination of the Orient
For the Europeans who travelled to the Orient in the Middle Ages, the musical cultures that they found there struck them, above all, as "different". In their accounts of their travels and pilgrimages, they invariably used words such as "mirabilia", "merveilles" and the "wonders of the Orient" to describe the objects and conditions that they encountered and that seemed to them strange and odd. This perception of the world changed only in the 16th century - the age of discovery and conquest - when the first scientific attempts were made to examine the different conditions that existed in foreign countries and to draw comparisons between East and West. These attempts to define and interpret whatever struck the observer as strange led in turn to the formulation of a new concept: the exotic. When seen against the background of more familiar local conditions, phenomena that had once seemed strange acquired a completely new significance when divorced from their original context, and now gained a highly attractive aura of exoticism.
For Europeans, the Turks initially posed an immediate threat of war, and it was only when the Siege of Vienna was lifted in 1683 and this danger was removed that countless Turkish fashions began to evolve in 18th-century Europe. Contemporaries could easily gain a first-hand impression of Turkish national and military bands thanks to the ensembles that a whole series of Turkish sultans sent as gifts with their ambassadors to various European courts. If these groups were subsequently disbanded, the individual players would sometimes find a source of income as percussionists in court and opera orchestras in Europe.
The influence of the music of the Ottoman Empire on western music is most obvious in the use and adaptation of Turkish percussion instruments in European orchestras. Here one thinks above all of the triangle, Turkish crescent, cymbals and bass drum. In addition, 18th-century European composers used stylistic features of Ottoman military bands in their own music. Although "janissary music", as these Turkish percussion ensembles were called, was still capable of making an impressively warlike, military noise, the former picture of the Turks as threatening and bloodthirsty had changed completely: in countless novels, plays, operas, paintings and dainty porcelain figurines we find stylized figures such as the infatuated Turk of Nicolas Lancret's painting Le turc amoureux and gallant and generous Turks, as in "Le turc généreux" from Rameau's Les Indes galantes. All of them served as a mirror for courtly and middle-class Europe.
The prototype of the noble Turk can be traced back to the historical figure of Suleiman, whose life was the subject of countless adaptations from the 17th century onwards. At the end of the 18th century, Joseph Martin Kraus included a whole series of Turkish characters in the ballets in his Turkish opera Soliman II, characters ranging from the noble Turk (13 and 20) to gallant dervishes (22) and seductive odalisques (15).
A noble Turk also features in Christoph Willibald Gluck's opera La rencontre imprévue of 1764. (The work was generally staged in the German-speaking world as Die Pilgrime von Mekka.) Although this work contains no warlike scenes or any connection with janissaries, its overture (6) incorporates a number of obvious features of Turkish military music such as its fanfare-like opening, its ornamental melodic formulas, frequent unison passages, cymbal clashes designed to advance the musical argument and the constant repetition of its motifs. Accompanied by cymbal strokes and separated by rests, the repeated notes in the first violins and piccolo create an impression of exaggeration, becoming more predictable with each repetition and thus striking the listener as increasingly comic. Even the falling interval of a diminished seventh in the fanfare is an example of pure pastiche.
In his Synfonia turchesa (23-6), Franz Xaver Süßmayr similarly relies on pastiche to make his point. This was a method that was popular with composers eager to introduce a note of exoticism into their works. In the present case the warlike confrontations between Europeans and Turks are relocated to a kind of Punch-and-Judy theatre in the Prater at Vienna, with the brave figure of Punch, in the form of the orchestra, desperately if playfully fighting the percussive might of the Turkish "crocodile" over three of the symphony's four movements. Only in the final movement does the European orchestra finally seize control of the coveted Turkish percussion instruments and launch into a Habsburg victory march.
Commissioned by the Emperor Joseph II, Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail of 1782 was merely the culmination of a whole series of Turkish operas designed to mark the lifting of the Siege of Vienna a century earlier. This was also the first work in which Mozart used the whole battery of percussion instruments associated with janissary music. He described the overture (2) in a letter to his father: "I've sent you only 14 bars of the overture. - It's very short - forte and piano passages keep alternating, with the Turkish music always entering with the forte. - It modulates through different keys - I doubt whether anyone will sleep through it, even if they didn't sleep a wink the whole of the previous night."
The aim was to alienate and amuse the audience: the actual authentic Orient was invariably of only secondary interest here. As a result, there can be no internal connection between the overture to Gluck's La rencontre imprévue (6) and the Ottoman song sung by pilgrims on their way to Mecca (17), or between Kraus's gallant dervishes (22) and an original Turkish dervish song (21), between the entrance music for the Ottoman sultan (12) and his "coronation" (20) (sultans were not crowned), or between the "Concerto turco" (4) and its source (5) in the final section of one of the rituals of the Mevlevi dervishes.
The exoticism of the 17th and 18th centuries drew a heavy veil between non-European cultures and the imaginary Orient invented in Europe. Few Europeans had a chance to see both East and West for themselves and to observe their characteristic features at first hand. It is to two of these travellers that we owe the transmission of Ottoman music of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries: the Pole Wojciech Bobowski (later Ali Ufki, 1610-75), who was sold into slavery at the age of eighteen and taken to the Ottoman court, and the Moldavian Prince Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723), who spent several decades in Constantinople. Thanks to their writings on Turkish culture and their collections of music, these two contemporary witnesses allow us to hold up the mirror of European exoticism to its actual real-life object.
Vladimir Ivanoff (Translation: Stewart Spencer)
Chronology of Concerto Köln and Sarband
For seventeen years, CONCERTO KÖLN has been giving committed performances of the music of the 18th and, more recently, the early 19th century, acquiring a highly distinctive profile in the process. When the group was awarded the German Critics' Prize in 1995, its work was described as "unsettling and aggressive, brilliant, emotionally charged and, above all, engagingly spontaneous". Founded in 1985 as a self-governing body, the group uses period instruments and is now regarded as one of the leading ensembles in the field of early music. Its members regularly appear singly and severally in all the major concert halls in Europe and North America, as well as finding themselves in demand at many of the world's most prestigious festivals, including the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and the Schleswig-Holstein and Schwetzingen Music Festivals. As an opera orchestra, they have appeared in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin, on each occasion revealing just how exciting Baroque and pre-Classical operas can be.
Fundamental to the group's success, as demonstrated by the many awards that it has received for its recordings, is the particular way in which its members work together, both in the rehearsal room and in the concert hall and recording studio, with each player enjoying the right to make his or her own contribution to the working process, thereby supplementing the input of the group's artistic director Werner Ehrhardt. They work on their interpretations together, with each member of the group sharing the overall responsibility. This particular manifestation of the Baroque principle of concertare - the principle of mutual agreement - is something that listeners can hear for themselves and that will always remain a hallmark of Concerto Köln's activities.
The group signed an exclusive five-year contract with Deutsche Grammophon in September 2002.
"Sarband" is a term used in Persian and Arabic to describe the improvised link between two parts of a suite. The group SARBAND was formed by Vladimir Ivanoff in 1986 with a number of complex and interrelated aims, chief of which is to demonstrate the links between European music, the musical cultures of Islam and, finally, Jewish music. As such, the group reveals great musical sensitivity and at the same time great commitment in celebrating the symbiosis of East and West. The members of the ensemble work together continuously, striving to achieve a dialogue between partners of equal standing. By exchanging ideas with musicians from other cultures, they ensure that the group's performances are not only as authentic as possible but also thrilling and alive.
Sarband has made a name for itself on the international stage with a unique repertory, performing at most of the world's leading festivals ranging from early music to the avant-garde.
The members of Sarband regard their work not as an occasional activity but as an expression of their whole lives. At a time when the religious, economic, cultural and political differences between East and West are at the forefront of media attention, Sarband seeks to demonstrate that music is far more than merely decorative: just as it has always been a liberal and cosmopolitan medium evincing mutual respect, so today it can still provide an example of peace, understanding and mutual recognition.
Concerto Köln's Debut CD on Archiv Produktion
Bridges East and West, Early and World Music
What do Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Christoph WillibaldGluck, and Joseph MartinKraus have in common with Zurnazen Ibrahim Aga, Han Gazi Giray, and Ali Ufki?
Their works are all featured onConcerto Köln's debut disc for Archiv Produktion, Dream of the Orient, in which this award-winning orchestra of period instruments opens up our ears to the rich fertilization of Western European music by Eastern traditions in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Concerto Köln presents a programme juxtaposing overtures, concertos, dances, and marches by Mozart, Gluck, Kraus, and Süssmayr - all of whom incorporated exotic Turkish elements in their "Western-style" compositions - with lively hymns and instrumental pieces by Zurnazen Ibrahim Aga, Han Gazi Giray, and other Turkish composers.
Dream of the Orient is another in the series of musical explorations undertaken by Concerto Köln, but it represents a strikingly unusual music adventure, even for this orchestra which has already earned a sterling international reputation for its "brilliant, passionate" and "endearingly spontaneous" performances (Jury of the German Record Critics' Prize). In 17years on the concert platform, as well as in recordings, Concerto Köln's inspired programmes have brought vividly to life seldom performed works by such famous composers as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn. They have also championed the music of lesser-known figures as Antonio Rosetti, Johann Baptist Vanhal, Evaristo Felice Dall'Abaco, Ignaz Haller, and Anton Eberl.
There's no doubt that we live today in the proverbial global village, where diverse cultures not only co-exist, but also overlap and intermingle. Through the Internet, 24-hour news bulletins, and affordable travel options, we are exposed on a daily basis to the lifestyles of other cultures. In the field of music alone, ethnic and cross-cultural projects have become so popular that formerly exclusive classical music publications are adding sections for reviews of "world music" and jazz. The boundaries between classical music, jazz, world music, and pop are breaking down, broadening the tastes and deepening the passions of music lovers who used to find themselves pigeon-holed into one category or another.
And yet we must also realize that musical interconnectedness is not a new phenomenon. Even in the 18th century, when travel by horse and carriage between Vienna and Constantinople could take weeks, people were curious about "foreign" cultures, and travellers disseminated their musical traditions in lands far from home. Turkish sultans, for example, sent national and military bands with their ambassadors to various European courts where the oriental flavour of their music making inspired "Western" composers.
For authentic Turkish instruments and for their profound knowledge of this area of performance practice, Concerto Köln turned to the musicologist and musician Vladimir Ivanoff and Sarband, the ensemble he founded to demonstrate the links between European music and the Islamic and Jewish musical cultures. Sarband's percussion instruments, including the timpani, Turkish crescent, davul (bass drum), and triangle, and their wonderful melody instruments, such as the kemânçe (bowed fiddle), the fascinating ney (a refined version of a shepherd's flute), and the kanûn (zither), add a distinctive spice and flair to the Turkish-flavoured works on this album.
In addition to Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Dream of theOrientfeaturesexcerpts from Joseph Martin Kraus's opera Soliman II, whose cast of characters includes noble Turks, gallant dervishes, and seductive odalisques, the overture to Christoph Willibald Gluck'sLa Rencontre imprévue which combines a number of Turkish-military musical elements, and Franz Xaver Süssmayr's Sinfonia turchesca, which uses Turkish percussion to add a note of exoticism. In all these selections, the energetic and mesmerizing percussion sounds are provided by the members of Sarband.
Giovanni Battista Toderini's transcription of a Concerto turco is one of the few attempts to translate Turkish music into European idiom; it is fascinating to listen to this piece followed immediately by the traditional Turkish song Son yürük semā'ī on which it is based. The composer of the concerto has assimilated aspects of the Turkish idiom, but the original tune belongs unmistakably to another tradition altogether.
The instrumentalists of Sarband on their own perform the work by Zurnazen ÎbrâhîmAga and traditional Turkish pieces, as well as short improvisations (called taqsim in Turkish) that introduce the tonality and reflect the atmosphere of each piece. As a bonus, Sarband play taqsim before the "Western" works as well, lending them an authentic Turkish touch.
Whether audiences will respond to this programme as "early music" or "world music" remains to be seen, for it sits comfortably in both areas. What is certain is that Concerto Köln's performances never sit comfortably. They have been described as "rivetingly uncompromising" (Salzburger Nachrichten), "sparkling, lively, and loaded with energy" (Musik & Theater), filled with "imperious tones, thundering attacks, and diabolical precision, a hugely extensive range of nuances, marvellous and happy complicity between the instrumentalists" (Diapason), and "performed with evident enthusiasm and spirit" (Gramophone).