Two of ECM New Series’ leading ensembles, the Rosamunde Quartet and the Hilliard Ensemble, join forces to perform music of Boris Yoffe, in a highly attractive album which is also a label debut for the composer. Yoffe’s music is from his vast and unique ‘Book of Quartets’, an ever expanding collection, with the eight musicians making their selection from pieces completed between 2005 and 2009. As Paul Griffiths writes in the liner notes, “One listens here into infinity”, a work without end. This is composition as a diary, an unfolding, poetic, musical mediation, a gentle river of sound.
Born in St Petersburg (in 1968), Yoffe emigrated to Israel in 1990 and then to Germany in 1997. He describes himself as a Jewish (rather than Russian or Israeli) composer, creating work influenced by German music, Russian literature and Far Eastern philosophy. “His music has great beauty” says leading German composer Wolfgang Rihm.
The coming together of the Rosamunde Quartet and the Hilliard Ensemble is a special event, with both ensembles delivering inspired performances as they enter the spirit of Yoffe’s music. Yoffe’s writing leaves open, as challenges for the performer, many questions of tempo, dynamics and articulation. For the Rosamunde players it was a particular pleasure to work with interpretive freedoms of this kind. The album was recorded in St Gerold in the Austrian Alps in 2009, just a few months after the Hilliard’s recording of the hugely successful Officium Novum.
The Hilliard Ensemble, formed 1974, is widely revered for its exemplary performances of old and new music. Several of the group’s discs have been international best-sellers including all three ‘Officium’ recordings with Jan Garbarek and ‘Morimur’ (music of Bach, with Christoph Poppen). The group’s extensive ECM discography includes music of Perotin, Machaut, Tallis, Gesualdo, Lassus, Pärt, Schnittke, Kancheli, and Bryars. The Rosamunde Quartet was formed in Munich in 1992 – its ECM releases include music of Othmar Schoeck, Thomas Larcher, Tigran Mansurian, Valentin Silvestrov, Haydn, Shostakovich and Dino Saluzzi. The ensemble disbanded in 2010, making Song of Songs their final recording.
Boris Yoffe: I sought him but I found him not
I sought him but I found him not
Boris Yoffe: My own vineyard I did not keep
My own vineyard I did not keep
Boris Yoffe: I sleep, but my heart waketh
I sleep, but my heart waketh
Boris Yoffe: My head is filled with dew, my locks with drops of the night
My head is filled with dew, my locks with drops of the night
Boris Yoffe: My soul went forth when he spoke
My soul went forth when he spoke
The Arts Desk
21st January 2012
“A friend of mine told me that this was a perfect ECM disc. It certainly ticks all the boxes, from the exquisite, monochrome sleeve art to Manfred Eicher’s typically sensitive production. And Paul Griffiths’s sleeve notes are a pleasure to read...this music is fully formed and has a fabulous, understated self-confidence. There’s no swagger, no pushiness – Yoffe’s quartet writing is subtle, softly shaded and knows exactly what it’s saying.”