DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Eastern Voices, Blu-ray (2012)

East meets West in a very harmonious fashion.

Published on January 20, 2012

Eastern Voices, Blu-ray (2012) 

Documentary by Frank Scheffer and Gunter Wallbrecht
Conductor: Nader Mashayekhi
Performers: Alim Qasimov/ Fargana Qasimov/ Ibrahim Keivo/ Salar Aghili/ Harir Shariatzadeh/Yulduz Turdieva/ Morgenland Chamber Orchestra
Studio: EuroArts 2058684 [8/30/11] [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 1080i Full HD Color
Audio formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, PCM Stereo
Subtitles: German, French, English
Length: 111 minutes (documentary and performances)
Rating: **** 

Michael Dreyer founded the Morgenland Festival Osnabrück in 2005 in order to focus the European west on the riches of music in the Near East. Particularly with today’s hot political climate, the culture and especially music of this area (Turkey, Iran, Iraq, etc.) is not something that gets top billing in most western venues. This is in many ways a shame because virtually all music, and definitely the origin of western classical music heritage have its basis from this area.

The festival has been very successful, and so it was inevitable that such a concept would end up the subject of a documentary. And this one is far from being hagiographical or purely supportive; in fact it goes to great length to show the difficulties in trying to make the performances “work”. In one scene Alim Qasimov (and he and daughter Fargana are nothing short of sensational), on the day of the concert where his music will be “combined” with a western-style symphonic chamber ensemble, he essentially says “it’s not working” and threatens to cancel the performance. There is no sense of personality conflict in his decision; just a very ingrained artistic desire to make something work that evidently is not.

We get lots of interviews, a host of rehearsal scenes, some terrific up-close video of the performers and their fascinating instruments, discussion of vocal techniques, and an impassioned exploration of the artistic sensibilities behind this exotic (to a westerner) and often exquisitely beautiful music—not to mention a extended 40-minute concert. The sound is wonderful and the Blu-ray almost too crystal clear and vibrant. For anyone who thinks they know all there is to know about the music of the world, check this out—you might just come away a huge fan…I know I did.

Steven Ritter




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