“Quasi Parlando” is an important addition to ECM’s documentation of the work of Tigran Mansurian, an often breathtaking account of highly original contemporary chamber orchestra music. Issued in the wake of his 75th birthday, the album opens with the Armenian composer’s fiercely-concentrated Double Concerto, and proceeds to new music performed by its dedicatees: the lyrical Romance, dedicated to Moldavian violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and the intensely expressive Quasi Parlando, dedicated to German cellist Anja Lechner. Both are world premiere recordings, as is the Concerto No 2, subtitled Four Serious Songs, which concludes the programme. Throughout, the soloists deliver committed performances, as does the Amsterdam Sinfonietta under the direction of Candida Thompson.
In the liner notes, Wolfgang Sandner describes title piece Quasi Parlando, composed in 2012, as one of the works which best exemplify Mansurian’s aesthetics of reduction: “Every note is exactly where it belongs. Compositional feeling seems at one with the innate potential of the sounds. Yet we are amazed to hear how the cello’s rhetorical figures congeal into an effective and expressive art that transcends the conceptualisations of speech.” The Romance, composed a year earlier, initially retains the four-bar periods of a simple but moving folk song until the strings enter a dialogue with the solo violin, whereupon a transformation takes place...
In terms of textural density, Mansurian’s music has seen some changes in the thirty years that separate the composing of the Double Concerto and the Four Serious Songs, but his aesthetic stance has been consistent, both works sharing an immediacy of expression and rigorous creative will. At the same time, the composer encourages a degree of creative freedom from his music’s interpreters: “What is important is what the music needs, not what I need”, he said in a talk given at the Muziekgebouw Amsterdam, immediately before the recording of these pieces in October 2012.
Patricia Kopatchinskaja has described the violin part of Four Serious Songs as “pure spirit and magic... Tigran’s music is some of the strongest of our time.”