Tarkovsky Quartet – Nuit Blanche
(ECM 572 9067. CD review by Peter Bacon)
The band of pianist François Couturier, cellist Anja Lechner, soprano saxophonist Jean-Marc Larché and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier takes its name from the Russian film director most famously responsible for Solaris – contender, surely, for most philosophical sci-fi film (up against Kubrick’s 2001…).
The music is as subtly strange and delicately dream-like as Tarkovsky’s films and this disc has brief, fully improvised and especially abstract pieces running through it as well as longer, more formal compositions by Couturier, a bit of Vivaldi and an anonymous piece from the 15th century.
Of the Couturier compositions, the title track unfolds gently and at a stately pace, the four instruments dancing in and around each other with no sense of crowding. Soleil Sous La Pluie is carefully articulated by the composer with Larché high up in flute territory and faint atmospheric knocking in the background as if a distant shutter is banging in the wind. The longest, called Urga, makes the most of Lechner’s keening cello which slowly develops from eerie tones into a plaintive melody uniting cello and accordion.
The group improvs, named Rêve, Dream or Traum, sometimes make more use of the other sounds the instruments can make, whether it is percussive pops from the saxophone, wiry slides from the cello or rattling and wheezing from the accordion. Their unplanned nature makes them even more dreamlike in their unexpected twists and incongruities.
Vivaldi’s Cum Dederit Delectis Suis Somnum and the Anonymous composition Quant Ien Congneu A Ma Pensee sit most comfortably amidst the 21st compositions and improvisations.
Modern cross-genre chamber music of the highest order, and full of mystery which has the listener finding new things with every play of the disc.