November 27, 2009
Since my Soul Loved
Between the Lines BTLC HR7 1222
Establishing a distinctive body of work after more than a decade of recording, Israeli pianist Yitzhak Yedid’s compositions are usually multi-movement suites involving strings in so-called classical formations, mixed with a patina of improvising. Now based in North Queensland, Australia, his newest CD is a 2005 commission that was premiered in Jerusalem.
His many awards, commissions and concert hall premieres indicate Yedid’s particular challenge to keep his feet in both improvising and notated music. This challenge is thrown into even bolder relief listening to the verdant sounds produced by the piano quintet here. Insistently programmatic, the inferences and identities associated with this four-movement suite too often conspire to make Since my Soul Loved virtually indistinguishable from so-called classical music. While improvisation – usually by the pianist – is part of the strategy, careful listening is needed to fasten on sections which don’t suggest 19th century Romanticism. Yedid studied at Boston’s New England Conservatory with Ran Blake and Paul Bley. But even the Third Stream echoes of some of earlier compositions appear to dissolve into First (neo-classical) tropes here.
All this is description, not criticism however, since overall the work itself is impressive. As early as the first movement, double striking from chromatic prepared piano muscularly propels the theme forward through curtains of harmonically connected string glissandi. An additional smear from Daniel Hoffman’s violin joins with resonating piano chords to allow the movement to slither to a satisfying climax.
The second movement uses the plucked thumps and slaps of bassist Oar Boasson Hover, who has been recording with Yedid since 2002, to provide contrast first to the pianist’s percussive chording, then to a strident sul pontiucello run from the violinist as the other strings mass in double-stopped harmonies. Earlier freylach-like inferences are superseded by a gorgeous section of proliferating harmonies. Tranquil and uncomplicated in their playing in this section, the string players – including violist Galia Hai, who has played with the Israel Contemporary String Quartet and cellist Jonathan Gotlibovich – offer rainbow-colored variations on the theme.
Heavy romantic Slavic-styled harmonies reference the initial theme in the Third Movement, with even the piano syncopation taking on an impressionistic cast. Luckily, before the track is over, Yedid’s unaccompanied harp-like plucks in a higher register are tough enough to reflect the steel and copper properties of the wound strings and add a metallic tinge to the proceedings. Subsequent funereal-velocity keyboard pacing coupled with the massed strings and a contrapuntal emotive Jewish prayer melody, abstract and intensifies the compositional conflicts.
A lively interchange between the piano and cascading swipes from the others set up the final movement, with galloping piano chords and constricted string node scraping still barely skirting glissandi romanticism. A high-frequency keyboard interlude matched with adagio spacing from Gotlibovich – and with Horev’s bass line underpinning both –slowly sucks the jollity from the piece leading to an abstract ending.
Since my Soul Loved is another step along Yedid’s musical path. Notable on its own, it the nagging question raised by it is whether the pianist should concentrate on notated composition alone.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Since My Soul Loved First Movement 2. Since My Soul Loved Second Movement 3. Since My Soul Loved Third Movement 4. Since My Soul Loved Fourth Movement
Personnel: Daniel Hoffman (violin); Galia Hai (viola); Yitzhak Yedid (piano); Jonathan Gotlibovich (cello) and Ora Boasson Horev (bass)