Classical Spin: Anja Lechner and Vassilis Tsabropoulos

Georgia Straight, Canada
Feb 10 2005

Classical Spin: Anja Lechner and Vassilis Tsabropoulos
By alexander varty

Publish Date: 10-Feb-2005

Chants, Hymns and Dances (ECM New Series)

As gurus go, Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff was not a bad one. Even if
he did like his acolytes to keep him in baronial splendour, his
open-ended belief system–which included elements of Christian,
Buddhist, and Sufi thought as well as a kind of sceptical
humanism–remains a useful guide to navigating the world.

The Greek-Armenian mystic, who died in 1949, viewed music and
movement as powerful conduits for the divine presence, and his
students were required to embrace a variety of “sacred gymnastics”
aimed at calming the mind and strengthening the body. These gestures
were often accompanied by melodies created by Gurdjieff and arranged
for piano by his musically gifted student Thomas de Hartmann. Chants,
Hymns and Dances includes 11 of these short works, sensitively
performed by cellist Anja Lechner and pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos,
in addition to five similarly flavoured pieces written by the latter.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see Gurdjieff’s music as a precursor of
the contemporary school known as sacred minimalism. Like Arvo Pärt
and John Tavener, the most acclaimed exponents of that relatively new
genre, Gurdjieff sought to express spiritual ecstasy in a musical
marriage of East and West. As interpreted by Lechner and
Tsabropoulos, his tunes are haunting and timeless; the pianist’s own
compositions are also dark without being dour and contemplative
without being catatonia-inducing. Music does have magical powers to
unlock deep feeling, and there’s proof of that in every note on this
lovely CD.