Brian Olewnick, The Squid’s Ear, August 16, 2022
Tuesday, August 16, 2022 Press

It is likely going too far to call it a trend, but in recent months there have been a number of releases from contemporary composers who reference pre- or early Renaissance composers in their pieces, both titularly and within the work, especially people like Hildegarde von Bingen and Johannes Ockeghem. It would seem to be a decent enough fit, especially to the extent that elements like drones, intertwined organ-y harmonies, etc. could be reasonably extended and transformed from such initial models. Ceccarelli, in previous releases on the Another Timbre label, has touched on this area, offering variations on Kyrie Eleisons and other church-based forms. On this gorgeous recording, he continues, obliquely, down the same path.

The only semi-direct reference to earlier times is in the enclosed text, in French, from an anonymous 14th century source. Ceccarelli employs a 16-member ensemble, including voice. The opening Prélude harks back directly to pre-Renaissance forms, though in a kind of state of suspension, the notes hanging a bit, less rigidly channeled. Bourdons, running more than 17 minutes, stretches things out beautifully and softly, luscious extended chords wafting through the room, gently buffeted by ringing percussion. In an odd way, it reminds this listener of a severely toned-down early version of Glenn Branca’s massive sound clouds — all the better, as well. Ceccarelli expands the palette in Des nuages noirs, forming a kind of sonic brocade (with soprano) that drifts further from traditional sources, still with long tones but the harmonies have modernized; quite a moving piece. The first of two Intermèdes is a mid-tempo dance, summoning memories of medieval recorder music while the second is a dark, low-string driven dirge, somber and chilling.

Aubade, another lengthy work, is in adjacent territory to Bourdons, a rich, welling hum, on the surface steady-state but containing all manner of complexities and just gorgeously arranged, an ecstatically enveloping experience. Another stately, almost minuet-like dance, Même au milieu de la vie leads, after the intervening second Intermède to the title piece. It shimmers in the air, with organetto, strings and metallophones forming a pulsing bed over which soprano Ellen Wieser floats in and out. Though remnants of an ecclesiastic sensibility remains, it goes beyond that, out into the wonders of the real world.

A marvelous recording, leaving this listener eager for more.

A marvelous recording, leaving this listener eager for more.