Album Review

Golijov, Osvaldo / Berio, Luciano “Ayre” [Deutsche Gramophon]

cujo   10/23/2008   A Library

Ayre is a medieval spanish word for melody. Golijov???s 11-song cycle is supposed to represent the melting pot (Christians, Jews, Muslims) that 15th century Spain was before Isabella wreaked her havoc. As such, at worst you might describe this as a befitting soundtrack to a Mediterannean-trotting Bourne movie or to your latest Starbucks trip. At best, though, like Bourne or that marble mocha macchiato, this can pack some wollop. The moments of pulsing excitement bring a rush.

This piece was heavily hyped when it premiered in 2004 (all sorts of Top-10 lists, and the national tour stopped locally at Lively Arts and Cal Performances). This CD cashes it in for DG; star supporting players include David Krakauer, Erik Friedlander, Gustavo Santaolalla, and Jeremy Flower???s laptop beats. But how does this piece rise above the mediocrity that you might expect of a glorified mish-mash of ancient melodies and laptop, of Klezmer and Bedouin? To a degree, there is a casual modestness to Golijov???s pastiche. But above all, it???s Dawn Upshaw (most recently heard on KFJC on Gorecki???s 3rd). Her singing is captivating, and never ceases to blow my mind.

The pairing with Ayre is Berio???s Folksongs from 1964. Already you know it???s good (Because it???s Berio). You???ll recognize the first two songs (part of the canon thanks to the right honorable John Jacob Niles), but Berio soon heads off to France and Italy, and finishes in Azerbaijan with a wicked love song.

–Cujo, KFJC, Oct 2008

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