Tuesday 28 November 2023

Captivating & fascinating: Goldberg from Syriab Trio and Trio d'Iroise, bringing together Western classical, Arabic music and Bach

Goldberg: Syriab Trio, Trio d'Iroise; SOLAIRE RECORDS
Goldberg: Syriab Trio, Trio d'Iroise; SOLAIRE RECORDS
Reviewed 27 November 2023

A fascinating disc as two ensembles, one Western classical and one Arabic, journey through Bach's Goldberg Variations exploring what it means to play together, to base music on Bach yet synthesise with Arabic music. 

Some years ago, the Syriab Trio (Abdalhade Deb, oud/singing, Ibrahim Bajo, kanun, Amjad Sukar, percussion) did a project with Ensemble Reflektor, a North German chamber orchestra that included the cellist Johann Caspar Wedell. Wedell and the men of the Syriab Trio had lots of discussions, about music and about the mens' personal stories of war and displacement. The result was a wish to work together after that project ended.

The end result is this disc, Goldberg from Solaire Records, where the combined forces of the Syriab Trio and Trio d'Iroise (Sophie Pantzier, violin, Francois Lefevre, viola, Johann Caspar Wedell, cello) explore Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Goldberg - Syriab Trio and Trio d'Iroise
Goldberg - Syriab Trio and Trio d'Iroise

The two groups first came together in 2018, and their journey of exploration continued until recording in November 2022. They describe it as a journey rather than a new version, or perhaps journeys. First of all, there is the two group's journeys towards each other, exploring each other's musical cultures. First Trio d'Iroise created a string trio version of Bach's Goldberg Variations and then explored Arabic music's key system, rules for improvisation and use of quarter tones, whilst the Syrians explored the world of score reading, polyphonic lines and counting rests!

The piece itself is also a journey rather than a set approach. Things begin with just the string trio, and then Abdalhade Deb's oud comes in, followed gradually by the other Arabic instruments, and then Arabic key structures are introduced, the Maqams. These are used at first to add colour to Bach's music but then are steadily integrated so that the six performers move towards a synthesis of styles rather than simply Bach with added instruments and harmony, sometimes overlaying Arabic chants. The music is thus highly mobile, moving between the styles and instruments rather than being a single, monolithic structure.

By Variation Eight, we notice a distinct change of atmosphere as the Arabic instruments weave their way around Bach's music, then in Variation Eleven they start to explore the fascinating tension between the Western classical and Arabic tonal systems. By the end, we are in a world that isn't so much cross-over as synthesis and cross-fertilisation. The result is an exploration of what Bach might mean to three Arabic musicians, but also what Arabic music might mean to three Western classical musicians playing Bach. It is a record of those many journeys, but also a testament to the creativity and sheer fun that the players had.

J S Bach: Goldberg Variations
Syriab Trio (Abdalhade Deb, oud/singing, Ibrahim Bajo, kanun, Amjad Sukar, percussion)
Trio d'Iroise (Sophie Pantzier, violin, Francois Lefevre, viola, Johann Caspar Wedell, cello)
Recorded 21-24 November 2022, Adelbrinsaal, Kloster Drubeck

Never miss out on future posts by following us

The blog is free, but I'd be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog

  • A remarkable sense of energy & engagement: Wagner's Die Walküre from the London Opera Company at St John's Smith Square - opera review
  • Dependent ArisingAmerican violinist Rachel Barton Pine on combining classical and Heavy Metal on her latest concerto album -interview
  • Magical textures & supple lines: Fauré's La bonne chanson, Ravel & Canteloube from Louise Alder & eleven friends at Wigmore Hall - concert review
  • Taking its energy from the youth of the performers: Olivia Fuchs' new production of Handel's Ariodante at Royal Academy Opera - opera review
  • Epic re-imagining of Miles Davis’ legendary album Bitches Brew in the first ever performance from super group London Brew - concert review
  • Songs for Our Times: songs by Stuart MacRae & Bernard Hughes based on texts by Chinwe D. John - record review
  • Challenging and exciting: Marius Neset joins London Sinfonietta for a performance his Geyser - concert review
  • Singing in the rain: London Song Festival celebrates the bi-centenary of the Mackintosh - concert review
  • 20 years of frustration gave rise to soprano Juliet Fraser's VOICEBOX initiative for advanced singers specialising in contemporary vocal performance - interview
  • An eclectic mix of 18th century opera in vivid performances: Anthony Roth Costanzo and La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall - concert review
  • In a much-recorded field, they create something memorable: Songs of the Night from Rowan Pierce, Julien van Mellaerts, & Lucy Colquhoun - record review
  • Home

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month