05 Azrieli New Jewish MusicAzrieli Music Prizes – New Jewish Music Vol.4
Sharon Azrieli;Sepideh Raissadat; Naomi Sato; Zhongxi Wu; Orchestre Metropolitain; Nicolas Ellis
Analekta AN 2 9264 (outhere-music.com/en/labels/analekta)

Prize-winning compositions by 2022 Azrieli Music Prize laureates are firmly placed within the contemporary classical music realm, yet embrace an array of cultural and musical languages. Compositional excellence and innovation are showcased abundantly here but it is a combination of the abstract and visceral elements coupled with meaningful subjects that makes these pieces stand out. 

Shāhīn-nāmeh, the song cycle by Iranian/Canadian composer Iman Habibi, opens the album in a way that is both lyrical and strong, much like its subject. Written for classical Persian soloist and Western orchestra and based on the astonishing poetry of the 14th-century Judeo-Persian poet Shah Shirazi, the composition depicts the tale of Esther and delves on the themes of love, spiritual struggle and devotion. Soloist Sepideh Raissadat’s performance (voice and setar) is enchanting; her voice laments, dances, yearns, commands and pleads, bringing the heart of humanness into focus.

The winner of the Azrieli Prize for Jewish Music, Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord by Israeli composer and conductor Aharon Harlap, is dramatic in narrative and grand in execution. This large-scale work for orchestra and soprano uses the settings of five psalms, great musical gestures and dramatic phrasing to underscore trueness, reverence and the intensity of one’s faith. Soprano Sharon Azrieli delivers a powerful performance in collaboration with Orchestre Métropolitain and conductor Nicolas Ellis.

Rita Ueda’s Birds calling… from the Canada in You delivers quite different conceptual and musical language. Here we have a primarily atmospheric and textural piece that incorporates clusters of birdsongs of 450 bird species found in Canada. In this uniquely structured concerto for shō (Naomi Sato), suona/sheng (Zhongxi Wu) and Western orchestra, Ueda utilizes contemporary techniques to create a mesmeric environment, one that is quite distinctive and, at times, surprising.

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