1001 Nights in the Harem; Grand Bazaar; China Rhapsody
Iskandar Widjaja (violin), Iraz
Yildiz (piano); ORF Vienna Radio Symphony/howard Griffiths
Sony 19075865732 60:24 mins Pianist-composer Fazil Say creates epic soundscapes that combine traditional orchestration with instruments from his native Turkey, including kudüm and darbuka drums and the ney reed flute. Say also employs unusual techniques to make Western instruments evoke Middle Eastern ones. In the violin concerto 1001 Nights in the Harem (2007), written for Patricia Kopatchinskaja and performed here by Iskandar Widjaja, pizzicato effects turn the instrument into an oud. The work is not the first to be inspired by the Arabian Nights tales, of course: Rimskykorsakov based his symphonic suite Scheherazade on the popular story; Say’s version focuses particularly on the women within a harem. Widjaja impresses throughout, particularly in the cadenzas that link the first three movements.
Grand Bazaar (2015/16) conjures the vibrancy of the market, its highly rhythmic character neatly executed by the ORF Vienna
Radio Symphony Orchestra under ★oward Griffiths. This and the following China Rhapsody for piano and orchestra (2016) are premiere recordings; both works incorporate jazz-influenced elements in a manner reminiscent of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. If, at times, the music threatens to become pastiche, it remains enjoyable nonetheless.
There is some prepared piano in China Rhapsody (building on ideas heard in Say’s earlier work Black Earth, from 1997), which pianist
Iraz Yildiz tackles with aplomb. It is these additional timbres, along with the cross-genre style of writing that give the music its distinctive colouring (think Bernstein, John Adams and, in a way, Karl Jenkins). Claire Jackson
La Stravaganza, Op. 4
Anton Martynov (violin); Modo Antiquo/federico Maria Sardelli Dynamic CDS 7778 96:68 mins (2 discs) A painter, engraver, novelist, satirist as well as a leading Vivaldi scholarperformer, Federico Maria Sardelli brings the full breadth of his creative spirit to these exhilarating accounts. With the Italian period-instrument ensemble he founded in 1987, he performs Vivaldi’s 12 concertos of Op. 4: La Stravaganza – aptly named given their extravagant virtuosity.
Solo violinist Anton Martynov has a fearsome technique which he combines with a sensitivity to Baroque style, making light of Vivaldi’s flashing scales, filigree embellishments, fiddly double stoppings and leaps. Among the disc’s highlights are the brief but volatile opening movement of the D minor Concerto, RV 249 and the fiery concluding Allegro of the A minor work – dashed off with devil-may-care abandon. Martynov is eloquent, too, in the slow movements which are infused with operatic lyricism and pathos. ★e pours out the Largo of RV 301 like a lovelorn soprano; the icy Grave of RV 357 has an eerie beauty, while the sighing motifs of the 12th concerto’s Largo are uttered with poignant grace.
Sardelli directs with tireless energy, making some Allegros rather breathlessly hard-driven, and Vivaldi’s less-inspired, harmonically static fast movements verge on the motoric. (the more yielding accounts of Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante shape the musical lines with subtler contours and dynamics.) Nonetheless, with their mix of Italianate spirit and Russian virtuosity, these performances certainly don’t lack brilliance. Kate Bolton-porciatti PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★