This song cycle from 2004 is something of a cry in the wilderness, the composer's extraordinary plea for multi-cultural harmony.
That plea reverberates with voices and sounds from 15th-century Spain, a place where Christians, Arabs and Jews got a lot closer to coexistence than the three cultures can manage today.
Not that "Ayre" paints a rosy picture. We're still talking 15th century, after all. Some of the texts contain brutal images, some have a sardonic bite (one of the sweetest melodies is heard in a Sephardic song titled "A Mother Roaster Her Child").
Melancholy, fear and lamentation are addressed. Woven throughout the cycle is a sense of ...
Golijov's fusion of folk idioms and sounds creates a variety of arresting effects. The flavors of Arab and Jewish melodies, especially, blend together here, the common roots of both traditions somehow striking the same chords.
The composer surrounds a solo soprano with the distinctive tapestry of a chamber ensemble that includes a few winds and strings, accordion, guitar, harp -- and a laptop, for sampling sounds. The singer, too, is called on to create multiple aural colors.
Wednesday's performance featured soprano Lara Bruckman, who met the considerable challenges ably. She seemed as comfortable producing lullaby-sweet tones as guttural ones; she also recited the one non-musical passage -- a haunting poem by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish -- effectively.
There was admirable fluency and a telling sense of spontaneity from the instrumentalists: Marcia Kamper (flute), Matthew Sikes (clarinet), Timothy Huizenga (horn), Elizabeth Jaffe (villa), Todd Thiel (cello), Lynn Fleming (bass), Meng Su (guitar -- the playing in "Sueltate las Cintas" was especially eloquent), Jacqueline Pollauf (harp) and Ruby Fulton (accordion). Mobtown curator and co-founder Brian Sacawa tackled the computer duties with aplomb. Conductor Julien Benichou kept everything flowing smoothly.
"Ayre" is an eclectic piece, wide-ranging in its moods and meanings. For all of its pleasantly lyrical moments, it is not, in the end, an easy-listening piece. The music communicates on many, often very subtle levels, a point driven home in Mobtown Modern's stirring concert.
PHOTO (Festival de Saint-Denis -- Sébastien Chambert) COURTESY OF OSVALDOGOLIJOV.COM
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