|Tracks 1-2||Last Round||St. Lawrence String Quartet; Ying Quartet; Mark Dresser, double bass|
|Tracks 3-5||Lullaby and Doina||Tara Helen O'Connor, flute; Todd Palmer, clarinet; Mark Dresser, double bass; St. Lawrence String Quartet|
|Tracks 6-8||Yidishbbuk||St. Lawrence String Quartet|
|Tracks 9-13||The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind ||Todd Palmer, clarinets; St. Lawrence String Quartet|
After the Cleveland Quartet premiered 'The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind', Osvaldo Golijov's epic 1994 distillation of Jewish musical culture from Hebrew chant to klezmer, cellist Paul Katz pulled the composer aside and exclaimed, "This is the sexiest tango I've ever heard!"
That description offers one reason why the piece has inspired such admiration-and also such different recordings, first from the Kronos Quartet and now the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Such a wealth of interpretive possibilities is rarely found in works that carry their folkloric roots so close to the surface. But then, the Argentina-born composer, who lived in Israel before moving to the U.S., has rather diverse roots.
The St. Lawrence's...vision of 'Dreams and Prayers' combines the stark modernism of Golijov's 'Yiddishbbuk', a Kafka-inspired piece of almost Webern-like compression, with the lyrical freedom of his 'Lullaby and Doina'. The latter piece is an inspired pairing of variations on a Yiddish lullabye (originally written for Sally Potter's film 'The Man Who Cried') and a reworked theme by the Gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks.
Time Out New York
Broad ranging and defying labels, this music is at once evocative and spiritual, yet earthy and connected to a broad swatch of traditions. Last Round is a bristling work for double string quartet reminiscent of Bartok's settings of eastern European dances. Lullaby and Doina for flute and string quartet explores quieter, more melodic and nostalgic moods and contrasting energetic dances with pronounced Yiddish overtones to choice effect. Yiddishbbuk (inscriptions for String Quartet) starts with Kronos Quartetlike frenzy and moves into haunted landscapes and disturbing, energetic cells as it sets Kafka's remembrances of children interred by the Nazis in the Terezin concentration camp. The disc is rounded out by the four-movement Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind for klezmer clarinet and string quarteta work conjuring the theories of the 13th century rabbi who claimed all things and events in the universe come from the combination of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Mystical and tradition-bound, it passionately evokes worldly and ethereal realms interchangeably, often within the same phrase.
Thank heaven for music that helps us lose our way-that yanks us completely off task and pulls us half against our will to dark, even weird, places. In a good way. Grab Golijov's latest CD and you will see...This CD will appeal to his rapidly growing following...The disc opens with an explosion: the first recorded performance of his 1996 work, 'Last Round,' for two string quartets and double bass. The first movement is a frenzy of influences: Bartok, Mahler and Astor Piazzolla among them. It isn't pretty, but it smokes with mania, lust and doom. The stunning second movement is a mournful lament that Golijov calls a "seemingly endless sigh." The St. Lawrence and Ying string quartets with bass player Mark Dresser seem to draw every ounce of passion and intensity from it. What follows are gripping performances of equally intense and rewarding Golijov works by St. Lawrence and guests...
Gwendolyn Freed, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
This is an amazing recording. It will leave you drained of emotion and speechless with admiration... Lullaby and Doina incorporates Jewish and Gypsy themes, part slow and sad, part wild and motoric, with a radiant violin solo soaring above the woodwinds. Yiddishbbuk...is inspired by a line from an apocryphal psalm: "No one sings as purely as those who are in the deepest hell..." It's first movement commemorates three children who perished in the Nazi concentration camp Terezin. Golijov evokes their anguish in music that is by turns wild, raucous, slashing, mysterious, eerie, and always heart-rending. Tremolos flutter up above aching dissonances, alternating with organlike, sustained chords; slides and crashes sound like strangled death cries. Dreams and Prayers...are depicted in music that is calm, mysterious, meditative and devout, but intermittently breaks into traditional dance tunes, and builds up to several tremendous climaxes. The clarinet speaks, sings, sobs, screams, and prays in true klezmer style. The playing is fabulous, the total effect mesmerizing, but the real miracle is that this young Canadian quartet and American clarinetist can identify so completely with a culture surely worlds away from their own.
Edith Eisler, Amazon.com
...Golijov was raised on classical, klezmer and Piazzolla. The later shows up strongly in Last Round...fleshing out the strong, vibrant music. Lullaby and Doina is lovely, then lively, a very accessible work with gypsy as well as Jewish flavor. Yiddishbbuk, a musical fleshing out of inscription fragments from a collection of verses, is a set of passionate emotions, played with practiced insight and fire here.
D.T.Baker, Edmonton Journal
...They have a wild beauty that disregards the distinctions of genre and they also find commonalities, especially the vital forces that link Klezmer and tango. ...the collection as a whole is unforgettable.
Lloyd Dykk, The Vancouver Sun
Looking for something completely different? Well, look no further; Osvaldo Golijov has arrived-an overnight success after a scant two decades of struggle... The recording is crisp and detailed, powerful and honest, refined and tonally true. It never gets in the way of the music; it is almost impossible to imagine these works sounding better... It's always exciting to hear a job done well, but the true excitement in Yiddishbbuk is the arrival of a composer with something to say and a unique way of saying it.
Wes Phillips, On HIFI
...A heartfelt homage to one of Golijov's earliest influences, [Last Round] may well be the best Piazzolla tango Piazzola never wrote.
Ken Smith, Gramophone