September 19, 2006


Lusty or Tranquil in Spirit, but Always Unlikely in Sound (VIVIEN SCHWEITZER, 9/19/06, NY Times)

What happens when musical cultures intersect? Ara Guzelimian, the artistic adviser of Carnegie Hall, asked while introducing a concert by the Silk Road Ensemble on Saturday evening at Zankel Hall. It was the second of four programs that evolved from recent workshops in the Berkshires for young artists participating in the cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project.

With the border-hopping composer Osvaldo Golijov, what resulted was an exuberant mesh of unlikely instruments. The Silk Road was conveniently extended to Galicia to include the sultry Galician bagpiper Cristina Pato, who sashayed to center stage in shiny mauve pants, tossing her green hair and conducting with her hips in an almost carnal dance.

The silky, sensuous sound of her gaita, as the Galician instrument is called, was just one exotic voice in Mr. Golijov’s “Air to Air,” a new four-movement arrangement of music from his captivating song cycle “Ayre” and elsewhere, based on traditional Jewish, Arabic and Christian folk melodies.

“Ayre” was written for the soprano Dawn Upshaw; this chamber version featured Western strings, kemancheh (Persian spike fiddle), pipa (Chinese lute), ney (Persian bamboo flute) and a duo between gaita and sheng (Chinese mouth organ): unusual bedfellows even by the happy-family ethos of Mr. Golijov and the Silk Road Ensemble. The funky arrangement worked fine, ending with whoops from Ms. Pato and her companions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 19, 2006 12:00 AM
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