Friday 12 March 2021

Lunaris: an evocative and eclectic journey through the phases of the moon from two artists known for their performances in Early Music, Jorge Jiménez and Anna Stegmann

Lunaris; Anna Stegmann, Jorge Jimenez; GWK Records

; Anna Stegmann, Jorge Jiménez; GWK Records

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 12 March 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
An intriguing journey through the phases of the moon in music from Medieval to Berio, performed by two artists known for their performances in Early Music

Lunaris on GWK Records takes two artists best known for their skill in the Early Music world, Anna Stegmann (recorders) and Jorge Jiménez (violin,vielle) and gives them free reign to create a soundscape which moves from anonymous 13th and 14th century pieces to Tarquinio Merula from the 17th century to Ysaye and Bartok to Berio, all linked together with Jimenez own soundscapes.

I last reviewed Jorge Jiménez' work on Soledad, his disc for solo violin which moved from Biber and Bach to Lorca. This new collaboration with Anna Stegmann takes a similar creative approach. Lunaris is themed around the phases of the moon, and the programme is divided into sections, New Moon, Crescent Moon, Full Moon, Eclipse with the two artists associating each phase of the moon with different human expressions and moods. Jiménez' strikingly evocative electronic soundscapes link things and the result becomes a striking collage.

New Moon is centred on the third of Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances, whose melody originally recreated Middle Eastern instruments such as the flute. For the Crescent Moon we have two contrasting but lively Medieval pieces which engage with their vividness of rhythm and virtuosity. 

Then the Full Moon takes us via an eery Soundscape to Berio's Gesti a virtuosic piece originally written in 1966 for recorder player Frans Brüggen and here stunningly played by Stegmann in truly bravura style, but we also incorporate a movement from Berio's Duetti per due violini (a sequence of tiny pieces each dedicated to 20th century artistic figures). And to illustrate the wideness of the performers' scope, a rock-inspired Soundscape leads us from Berio to part of Ysaye's Sonata in A minor Op. 27 No. 2 for unaccompanied violin, the third movement based on the Dies Irae. Then comes more of Bartok's Romanian Dances, providing vivid contrast and proving that Steggen and Jiménez' view of a full moon is very varied, highlighting perhaps the extremes of emotion associated with the full moon. We end with the eclipsed moon in the form of a melancholy duet by Tarquinio Merula Canzonetta spirituale sopra la nanna, a song originally about fear of death, hope and love.

There is some really virtuosic playing here, but it is all encompassed in the overall theme rather than being an end in itself. The disc is less than 25 minutes long but the two performers pack a great deal into it and the result is intriguing and engaging. On first listen I kept wanting to know exactly what I was listening to (the record booklet gives details of the pieces but no other details so there was much Googling), but after that I was content to let the programme work on its own terms. Many of the tracks are short, and the disc is as much about the transitions between as the pieces themselves, hence Jimenez Soundscapes.

Jorge Jimenez also has a new project which launches today (12 March 2021), Rethinking Bach. In a series of episodes, he will be exploring Bach's Goldberg Variations via his own transcriptions for violin and all filmed in unusual locations in the UK. For more information see Jimenez' website.

Jorge Jimenez (1978) - Soundscape 1a „Ciconia
Béla Bartók (1881 – 1945) - Topogó / Pe loc
Jorge Jimenez - Soundscape 1b “Ciconia”
Anonymus (ca. 1275) -  Como póden per sas culpas
Anonymus (14th century) - Istampitta: In Pro
Jorge Jimenez, Soundscape 2
Luciano Berio (1925 – 2003) - Gesti & Duet Nr. 17: Leonardo
Jorge Jimenez, Soundscape 3
Eugène Ysaÿe (1851 – 1931) - Sonate in a minor, Op. 27, No. 2
Béla Bartók - Aprózó / Mărunțel
Jorge Jimenez, Soundscape 4
Tarquinio Merula (1595 – 1665), Canzonetta spirituale sopra la nanna
Anna Stegman (recorders)
Jorge Jimenez (violin, vielle)
Recorded 21 july 2020, Schuilkerk De Hoop, Diemen, Netherlands
GWK RECORDS GWK149 1CD [24.50]

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