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Officium Novum / Hilliard Ensemble

Album Summary

>Vardapet, Komitas : Ov Zarmanali (solo) Ayssor Tzaynen Hairagan
>Chant, Orthodox : Svjete tihi (O Joyful Light) (Serbian)
>Garbarek, Jan : Allting finns, for saxophone & vocal ensmeble
>Vardapet, Komitas : Surb, surb, for chorus
>Pärt, Arvo : Most Holy Mother of God, for male voices
>Anonymous, Cancionero de Upsala : Tres morillas m'enamoran
>Vardapet, Komitas : Sirt im sasani (Hymn for Maundy Thursday), for chorus
>Vardapet, Komitas : Hays hark nviranats ukhti, for chorus
>Pérotin : Alleluia nativitas
>Garbarek, Jan : We are the stars, for saxophone & vocal ensemble
>Seferis, George : Nur ein Weniges noch, poem
Performers Ensemble Composers

Notes & Reviews:

This is the long awaited third album from one of the most touching and magical sound combinations in music today: Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek with Britain's premier vocal group The Hilliard Ensemble. The inspired combination of Garbarek and the Hilliards has resulted in consistently inventive music making since 1993. The unprecedented Officium album, with Garbarek's saxophone as a free-ranging 'fifth voice' with the Ensemble, gave the first indications of the musical scope and emotional power of this combination. Mnemosyne (1998) took the story further, expanding the repertoire beyond 'early music' to embrace works both ancient and modern. And now, after another decade of shared experiences, comes Officium Novum, that finds the collective at the crossroads of East and West, with a central focus on the music of Armenia based on the adaptations of Komitas Vardapet ( pieces which draw upon both medieval sacred music and the bardic tradition of the Caucasus.)

"With the unexpected massive success of Officium (ECM, 1994), Jan Garbarek's first collaboration with The Hilliard Ensemble, it would be all too easy for the Norwegian saxophonist and British vocal ensemble to rest on their not inconsiderable laurels, and simply repeat the formula. But while Officium featured a repertoire of structured early music - from Gregorian chant to early polyphony, over which Garbarek soared improvisationally - the double-disc follow-up, Menemosyne (ECM, 1999), expanded the quintet's purview by introducing music of a more contemporary nature, including fragments of minimal notation that encouraged The Hilliard Ensemble to extemporize alongside the saxophonist. A decade later, Officium Novum continues to broaden this remarkable pairing's already expansive perspective, by bringing in music of a distinctly eastern flavor, with considerable focus on music composed or adapted by Armenian composer Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935).

As with Mnemosyne, the lines between form and freedom are completely and utterly blurred by Garbarek and the Hilliards. Even when turning to one of two Garbarek compositions - the first time this group has adapted an extant piece from the saxophonist's repertoire, in this case the calm-inducing "We are the Stars," first heard on the saxophonist's Rites (ECM, 1998), where Garbarek performed the piece with a larger boys choir - it's hard to know where notation ends and improvisation begins. More likely, it's a case of the two existing conterminously, with melodies preconceived and lines pulled from the ether occupying the same multidimensional space.

As ever, Garbarek's attention to the purity and precision of each and every note is matched by countertenor David James, tenors Roger Covey-Crump and Steven Harrold, and baritone Gordon Jones. By using both tenor and soprano saxophones throughout the program, Garbarek augments the vocal group at both ends of the spectrum, moving underneath and soaring above, often within the same phrase. That reeds and voices merge together so effortlessly - engendering a curiously paradoxical combination of peace and passion - is this ensemble's particular strength; even brief moments of dissonance, as in the Hillards' approach to Garbarek's other original composition, "Allting finns," only serve to create a momentary sense of tension that softly resolves back to translucent beauty.

Once again recorded at the acoustically profound Propstei St. Gerold in Austria - a favorite locations when the label looks to include the sound of the room as a near-equal partner to the musicians performing in it - timbral purity is matched by sonic transparency; even as the five voices merge together into a seamless whole, so, too, can each and every part be discerned with pristine clarity.

Officium Novum's repertoire is the quintet's most intriguing yet, finding a nexus point where Garbarek and Vardapet can coexist with Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, whose "Most Holy Mother of God" represents the album's spiritual high point, and 13th century composer Pérotin, whose "Alleluia, Nativitas" represents Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble at its most buoyant. If music is meant to be a transporting experience, then Officium Novum is Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble at its transcendent best." -AllAboutJazz

BBC Music Magazine
Over the immanent, limpid voices Garbarek improvises equally immaculate counter-melodies. His contributions tend to be somewhat predictable, more decoration than improvisation in the fullest sense, but his tone is so pleasing...and the melodies so calming to the spirit that he can be forgiven.

The Times
Garbarek's not one for idle doodling. Neither does he get stuck in a rut. Each piece summons a different response...So please welcome Officium Novum. Neither classical nor jazz, neither new nor old, this music simply exists, for everyone's wonder and nourishment.

Classic FM Magazine
The Hilliard's vocals seemingly emerg[e] from the misty darkness to engulf you in waves of pure human sound. Garbarek's sax weaves within, soars over and ducks below them, like some benign but authoritative, other-worldly presence. His own We Are The Stars is nothing less than spellbinding.

Gramophone Magazine
The frisson created by the Hilliards' chaste vocalising and the raw wailing of Garbarek's saxophone manifests as sacred versus profane, like a chilled jazzer idling against a church wall...It's a pretty seductive formula that still creates a fair measure of magic.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Propstei St. Gerold (06/2009).

More than 15 years separate the release of Jan Garbarek's best-selling album Officium from his Officium Novum. The newer release, like the original, features Garbarek on soprano and tenor saxophones and the male vocal quartet the Hilliard Ensemble. In both albums, Garbarek takes pre-existing vocal pieces and embroiders them with his soulful obbligato contributions. The chaste austerity of the men's voices and the reedy plaintiveness of the saxophone make for a surprisingly effective pairing. Garbarek and the singers manage to merge two very different musical worlds without compromising the integrity of either, and that is part of what gives these albums such an impact. The first album used primarily Medieval and Renaissance material -- chants, motets, and liturgical song -- while this second mostly uses more recent source material, primarily from Eastern Europe. In addition to several medieval sources, included are works by the early 20th century Armenian priest, musicologist, and composer Komitas; Nikolai N. Kedrov, a Russian composer of the same era; the mid-20th century Greek composer Giorgios Sefaris; the Estonian Arvo Pärt; and several original pieces by Garbarek himself. Like the first album, this one is suffused with a sense of distant mystery and a profound, powerful melancholy that is given voice with intense feeling. The sound again is spacious and warmly resonant, with an earthy, enveloping ambience. This album will be a must-have for anyone who loved the first one, and it should appeal to any listener with an affinity for meditative Eastern European spirituality, especially when tied to contemporary expressivity and stylistic freedom. ~ Stephen Eddins

Includes litany / otche nash / dostoino est by various composers.



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Works Details

>Vardapet, Komitas : Ov Zarmanali (solo) Ayssor Tzaynen Hairagan
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 4 min. 11 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Chant, Orthodox : Svjete tihi (O Joyful Light) (Serbian)
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 4 min. 14 sec.

>Garbarek, Jan : Allting finns, for saxophone & vocal ensmeble
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 4 min. 18 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary

>Vardapet, Komitas : Surb, surb, for chorus
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 6 min. 40 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Choral

>Arvo Pärt (1935 - ) : Most Holy Mother of God, for male voices
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 4 min. 34 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2003

>Anonymous, Cancionero de Upsala : Tres morillas m'enamoran
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 3 min. 32 sec.

>Vardapet, Komitas : Sirt im sasani (Hymn for Maundy Thursday), for chorus
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 4 min. 6 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Choral

>Vardapet, Komitas : Hays hark nviranats ukhti, for chorus
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 6 min. 25 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Choral

>Pérotin (Composer) (circa 1160 - circa 1230) : Alleluia nativitas
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 5 min. 20 sec.
  • Period Time: Medieval
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: circa 1200

>Garbarek, Jan : We are the stars, for saxophone & vocal ensemble
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Running Time: 4 min. 18 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary

>Seferis, George : Nur ein Weniges noch, poem
  • Performers: Jan Garbarek (Saxophone); Hilliard Ensemble (Clavichord)
  • Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble
  • Period Time: Contemporary