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It's been six years since these same performers got together to create one of the decade's more unusual experiments in musical alchemy. Beginning with the raw materials of early music and modern jazz, the four male voices of the Hilliard Ensemble joined with jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek to see what would happen when the proper measure of old music and new style were combined, shaped by the performers' considerable experience and collective aesthetic vision. The success of that recording, titled Officium, together with subsequent concert performances, paved the way for this second effort, continuing the performers' search for artistically meaningful, musically satisfying combinations of written music and improvisatory elements. The odd title of the new recording comes from a mystical poem by Friedrich Hölderlin, quoted in the liner notes and accompanied by pictures from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Officium aficionados will notice that Mnemosyne is even more adventurous in its explorations, which range farther and farther from the printed page. Musical fragments and a general outline are the starting points for several pieces. Improvisation is more frequently and freely employed, but always adheres to an agreed stylistic framework. Alongside a Tallis hymn or a chant by Hildegard, we hear Iroquois and Peruvian song fragments, an ancient Greek tune, and a beautiful lullaby by Veljo Tormis. Garbarek's tasteful improvisations are appropriate additions and inspired commentaries. The Hilliards are even better than on Officium; their awareness and sensitivity brings everything together into a truly unified expression that shows the timelessness of music and reminds us that where rhythm, melody, and musical imagination join, different styles, centuries and genres are not necessarily obstacles to compatibility. --David Vernier
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This time around, the music is more varied, with compositions ranging from old to new, from strictly composed to mostly improvisational. Officium maintained a fairly consistent musical mood throughout, while Mnemosyne is more varied in its musical and emotional content. Some will find the new recording refreshingly eclectic, while others may miss the focused vision of the earlier release.
Both recordings were made in the same venue, a monastery, and the sound quality of the new release is exemplary. Mnemosyne is an extraordinary venture that showcases the talents of these extraordinary musicians as they venture into new and sometimes uncharted musical territory.
What else can I say?
Just imagine a cold winter's night (and nights are cold these day in the Southern Hemisphere), cudled inside your home, by the fireplace, with the company of a good book, smoking your pipe, sipping some good french brandy and listening this marvelous music.
What else can compare to such an experience?
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