Classical CD Reviews

“In Search of the Miraculous” – Works by SAY; SHARAFAYAN; KHALII; HOVHANESS; SURMAN & CLEARY: Hilliard Ensemble/ EQ Ensemble/ Elisaveta Blumina, John Feeley and Pavlos Kanellakis – Louth Contemporary Music Society

Contemporary music with an eastern flavor hampered by a dearth of information.

Published on December 18, 2013

“In Search of the Miraculous” – Works by SAY; SHARAFAYAN; KHALII; HOVHANESS; SURMAN & CLEARY:  Hilliard Ensemble/ EQ Ensemble/ Elisaveta Blumina, John Feeley and Pavlos Kanellakis – Louth Contemporary Music Society

In Search of the Miraculous” – Works by SAY; SHARAFAYAN; KHALII; HOVHANESS; SURMAN & CLEARY:  Hilliard Ensemble/ EQ Ensemble/ Elisaveta Blumina, John Feeley and Pavlos Kanellakis – Louth Contemporary Music Society LCMS 1301, 61:00 [Dist. by Allegro] [7/9/13] ***½:

This is a vexing CD. It’s an excellent collection of music for small ensembles. The titles of pieces suggest perhaps a mystical theme, so there are Dreams of a Dying City and The Sea of our life is Troubling Me.

Perhaps the CD title is a clue. In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching is a 1949 book by Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky which recounts his meeting and subsequent association with G.I. Gurdjieff, a spiritual teacher.

The music is all contemporary, and I recognize a few names, like Hovhaness and Surman, but there is nothing to explain the point of the collection. I eagerly reached for the liner notes, but it was composed of photos of the artists. So while the CD is in search of the miraculous, I was in search of a reason for the CD’s existence. Perhaps that is the point. It is what it is and it speaks for itself.

Now, on to the music. The collection is well-played by the ensembles, which comprise the Hilliard Ensemble, the EQ Ensemble, and soloists Elisaveta Blumina, John Feeley and Pavlos Kanellakis. Once again, there is not a word about the artists anywhere to be found. Nevertheless, I find no fault with the performances, and they are uniformly excellent and emotive. Each track serves the composer well. I would say most of the music presented is contemplative in nature. The only piece I had heard previously was the Hovhaness.

The recording is quite good as well. It was done at St. Peter’s Church in Ireland and St. Jude’s on the Hill in London. Instrumental positions are solid, and the stereo recording captures the acoustics of each church. I listened in stereo and in Dolby ProLogic II on a 5.1 system, and I think the latter made the music a bit more involving.

So we are left with a well-played and well-recorded CD. I liked the music very much, and will return to the disc in the future. But I wish there was some information about the aim of the CD, and something about the composers and artists featured.

—Mel Martin




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