Listening to...

Heaven on a CD

Harmonia Mundi has long been our go-to label when we want to get a nice new take on well-known repertoire on indeed, discover something new and very fresh. So it comes as no surprise that when Harmonia Mundi releases a new disc on the jazz label, JazzVillage, we also sit up, take note and listen.

This project creates an exciting new bridge between Western classical music and African-American music. With his band of virtuosos, Raphaël Imbert weaves together the common themes in the worlds of Ellington and Mozart. Making each echo to the other’s sound, he conjoins them in a musical marriage which brilliantly merges their works. Heavens is an immense modern jam session, drawing on eclectic multicultural sources: blues, chamber music, secular song, German lied, sacred music, stomp, gospel and even opera…

Inspired by both written and oral traditions, driven by improvisation and a swinging momentum, the saxophonist reveals the genius of these two great Masters. He brings to the fore their humour and their spirituality, a spirituality which at times touches the universal imagination. If their worlds combine so harmoniously, it is also because the three creators of this exceptional work, Mozart, Ellington and Imbert, are all blessed with the same innocence, the same passion, the same joy in sharing. In Heavens, the music lover is raised to a rainbow paradise where the hearts of jazz and classical music collide and beat together, and where music is as much a state of mind as a question of style. How happy are we to experience the union of this trinity!

Most rewarding has to be the reading of Das Lied der Trennung, K. 519. Mozart’s few Lieder are representative of eighteenth-century song and its tendency toward sentimental melancholy. References to tears, graves and loneliness occur often. Mozart did not seem to search hard and long for poems to set, which is probably why most of his song texts are mediocre. According to Mozart’s “List of all my Works,” “Das Lied der Trennung” (Song of Separation), K. 519, was completed on May 23, 1787, while the composer was beginning work on Don Giovanni. In “Das Lied der Trennung,” descriptions of “God’s angels weeping” and a reference to the “bewitching hour” certainly evoke less-than-pleasant images. The narrator, separated from his beloved Luisa, is afraid she will forget him. The remembrance of her on his lips makes the pain unbearable.

Mozart chose the key of F minor for “Das Lied der Trennung,” a key generally associated, at the time, with the most intense, passionate feelings. All of the melodic material contains large leaps and dotted rhythms, reflecting the tortured state of the narrator’s mind. It is a thing of great wonder that the song translates so well to this contemporary reading and in effect gains so much from it.
Highly recommended!