After their highly acclaimed 2014 debut album as a duo, Moderato cantabile, Anja Lechner and François Couturier widen the scope of music even further. The duo sings in a voice of its own, be it with original compositions, free improvisations, drawing upon a Bach cantata or an Argentine folk lament or subtle inclusion of works by Henri Dutilleux, Giya Kancheli or Anouar Brahem. Having internalized influences and repertoire the German cellist and the French pianist not only locate atmospheric and expressive connections among far-flung sources, but also create new music that reflects and refracts its inspirations.
A1 Praeludium, Composed By – Lechner, Couturier 1:42
A2 Arpeggio, Composed By – François Couturier 1:13
A3 Gratitude, Composed By – Lechner, Couturier 2:45
A4 Alfonsina Y El Mar, Composed By – Ariel Ramírez 4:56
A5 Flow, Composed By – François Couturier 6:20
A6 Memory Of A Melody, Composed By – Lechner, Couturier, Composed By [Excerpt] – Johann Sebastian Bach 5:04
A7 Solar I, Composed By – Lechner, Couturier 1:20
A8 Solar II, Composed By – Lechner, Couturier 1:05
A9 Shadow, Composed By – Anja Lechner 1:18
B1 Miniature 27, Composed By – Giya Kancheli 4:55
B2 Hymne, Composed By – Lechner, Couturier 1:38
B3 Vague – Et La Nave Va, Composed By – Anouar Brahem 6:58
B4 Lontano, Composed By – Lechner, Couturier 2:35
B5 Tryptic, Composed By – François Couturier7:45
B6 Prélude En Berceuse, Arranged By [Arr. By] – Anja Lechner, François Couturier, Composed By – Henri Dutilleux 3:14
B7 Postludium, Composed By – Lechner, Couturier 2:05
“With François, I have often set off on journeys to foreign melodies. This requires mutual trust, courage and imagination.
Together we search as if through various countries, exploring, shaping, struggling, rejecting, and finding new forms to finally sing the song.”
On Moderato Cantabile, their 2013 duo recording, Anja Lechner and François Couturier illuminated some musical and spiritual affinities linking Komitas Vardapet, George I. Gurdjieff and Federico Mompou, composers at the crossroads of East and West. With Lontano, the German cellist and the French pianist widen the scope of their music.
Out of their shared work – which has included concerts and recordings with the Tarkovsky Quartet and the Il Pergolese project as well as duo activities – a shared language has evolved. Whether playing their own pieces, compositions by Henri Dutilleux or Giya Kancheli or Anouar Brahem, drawing upon a Bach cantata or an Argentinean folk lament, Lechner and Couturier have established a distinctive musical identity. Finding atmospheric and expressive connections among far-flung sources, they also create new music that reflects and refracts its inspirations.
“Alfonsina y el mar”, Ariel Ramírez’s zamba which pays tribute to modernist poet Alfonsina Storni is a piece Anja Lechner first heard in Mercedes Sosa’s version. In the Couturier-Lechner interpretation the cello takes on the singer’s role. It’s a role that Lechner has maintained in many different contexts including recent re-settings of Schubert songs with Pablo Márquez (refer to the album Die Nacht). The cello, she suggests, may be the singing instrument par excellence, by virtue of its range able to encompass the full span of male and female voice.
Since he arrived, mid-90s, at ECM with Poros, a delicate tracery of textures with violinist Dominique Pifarély, the hallmarks of Francois Couturier’s playing, improvising, and composing have consistently been restraint, subtlety, patience and a meticulous fine-tuning of ideas. Alongside his own works François has been an important creative partner for the Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem, whose “Vague - E la nave va” is heard here. It has been part of the Lechner-Couturier songbook for several years already.
Giya Kancheli’s “Miniature 27” is a theme written for the film Tears Were Falling by Georgian director Georgiy Daneliya, which Anja first came to admire in the version by Jansug Kakhidze. The duo’s version takes off from the solo piano score. François suggested bringing in Henri Dutilleux’s “Prélude en berceuse”. This spirited early work from the 1946 cycle Au gré des ondes has found approval among jazz pianists. Lechner and Couturier take a freer approach in their own arrangement: “At first we played the whole piece, then began gradually abandoning sections of it as we opened it up more and more.”
The tune recalled in “Memory of a Melody” is J.S. Bach’s aria “Wie zittern und wanken der Sünden Gedanken”, from the cantata Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht mit deinem Knecht. The duo have played the aria in its entirety in concert, but here it emerges obliquely out of improvisation – encircled, hinted at, buried again like treasure.
“Flow” and “Tryptic” are strikingly different compositions by Couturier, the first sailing forth serene and stately, the second shifting its perspectives in motoric flurries of activity. Meanwhile, the improvisations broaden the reach of the programme. Anja Lechner’s solo “Shadow” began from “a spontaneous idea of playing a kind of Carl Friedrich Abel arpeggiated piece. Then François picked up on the idea, and continued with the piece now called ‘Arpeggio’”.
In the improvised selections unplanned references to Mompou (on “Lontano”) or to Gurdjieff (on “Hymne”) arise fleetingly - “maybe because we inhaled that music so comprehensively” - while the beginning of the improvisation called “Postludium” sounded in Anja and François’ view so much like something Valentin Silvestrov might have written that they wanted to dedicate the piece to him. The Ukrainian composer’s concept of music as metaphorical conversation with artists of the past and present is also not so far away from the current endeavour, where the musical language draws, consciously and intuitively, on a wealth of wide-ranging experience.
CD booklet includes artist statements by Anja Lechner and François Couturier and liner notes by Stéphane Ollivier.
2 Reviews Hide Reviews Show Reviews
Original but not avant gard, I'd buy their next album in a heartbeat. It's that good.