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Provenance is the latest release from Maya Beiser, hailed by The New Yorker as a "cello goddess" and by the San Francisco Chronicle as "the queen of post-minimalist cello." The title means "origins," referring to both Maya's personal history and the intertwining cultural traditions that course through this stunning disc. On some selections, the rich-hued sound of Maya's cello is heard on its own; on others, she's accompanied by Lebanese-American master musicians Jamey Haddad (percussion) and Bassam Saba (oud), with percussionist Shane Shanahan. The culminating track is a dazzling arrangement of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" for multi-tracked cello and drumkit, featuring studio legend Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello).
Provenance brings together music by contemporary composers from Armenia, Kurdish Iran, Israel, the US, and the UK. It was inspired by the golden age of medieval Spain, when Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together, giving rise to a centuries-long flowering of commerce, culture, art, and architecture. Likewise, Maya grew up in an Israeli kibbutz at the foothills of the Galilee mountains, co-existing in harmony with neighboring Muslim and Christian Arab villages. Provenance is inspired by that experience, celebrating the glory of a multi-religious, multicultural civilization and the hope of lasting peace.
Kayhan Kalhor's "I Was There" by is based on a melody by the ninth-century Persian Kurdish musician Ziryab, a former slave who became the most influential musician of his time. Armenia's unique musical tradition is represented by Djivan Gasparian's haunting "Memories." Gasparian is one of Armenia's greatest living musicians, a virtuoso player of the traditional double-reed Duduk.
"Mar de Leche" (Sea of Milk) by Israeli composer Tamar Muskal draws on an ancient love song in Ladino, the mixture of Hebrew and Spanish spoken by medieval Sephardic Jews, whose music blended Arabic and Jewish traditions. Douglas J. Cuomo, composer of the theme to Sex and the City and the chamber opera Arjuna's Dilemma, contributes "Only Breath;" inspired by a poem by Rumi, it builds slowly from a meditative opening to a virtuosic climax. Led Zeppelin's Middle Eastern-tinged "Kashmir," heard in an arrangement by Evan Ziporyn, makes a fitting close to this compelling disc. From the Label
Performance CreditsMaya Beiser Primary Artist,Cello
Jamey Haddad Percussion
Jerry Marotta Drums
Etty Ben-Zaken Vocals
Bassam Saba Oud
Shane Shanahan Percussion
Technical CreditsJimmy Page Composer
Robert Plant Composer
Djivan Gasparyan Composer
John Kilgore Engineer
Judith Sherman Producer
Evan Ziporyn Arranger
Philip Blackburn Label Direction
Lili Almog Art Direction
Maya Beiser Producer,Liner Notes,Executive Producer
Kayhan Kalhor Composer
Dave Cook Engineer
Douglas J. Cuomo Composer
Tamar Muskal Composer
Douglas Cuomo Composer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Amazing CD, its been a while since I enjoyed a CD from the first track to the last.
Maya Beiser revolutionized contemporary classical cello with her album "Kinship," and every subsequent album from "World to Come" through "Provenance" has demonstrated how multi-dimensional and talented this artist is. Provenance is simply stunning; the rendition of Kashmir is very refreshing after a few somewhat disappointing attempts by other classical musicians, but the other pieces really make the album. She clearly knows the music and the area it comes from very well (not many classically trained Western musicians have a nuanced enough understanding of this music to deliberately include Kurdish music and even Ladino music), but the most impressive aspect is, as always, her playing. Ten years ago, no one would have argued with the notion that Beiser is a virtuoso up there with Rostropovich and Du Pre, but now I think she is entering new territory that no one in the history of the instrument has ventured into. In an era where pop and rap have gripped the popular culture, Beiser's music is one of the last bastions of intelligent and thoughtful composition that everyone can enjoy. My only wish is that she would have included some of the other pieces she performed at the opening concert for Provenance at Carnegie Hall, I really enjoyed them and missed them on the album.
From the opening notes of "Provenance," it's impossible not to find oneself transported from mundane reality to a time and place of spiritual calm and rejuvenation. Cellist Maya Beiser, whose career path is as unpredictable as it is artistically rewarding, explores Spain's centuries-old musical traditions in works by several contemporary composers on this, her latest and most accessible recording. Beiser was raised in Israel, so her interest in Middle Eastern music is no surprise. Several of the composers invited to participate in this project hail from Iran, Israel and Armenia; their compositions tap into ancient musical forms while retaining a distinct contemporary attitude. Each piece leads seamlessly into the next, creating a rich musical tapestry of melody, emotion and drama in which Beiser's cello is the dominant voice. Her haunting and soulful playing is deftly supported by appropriately minimalist accompaniment: oud, percussion and voice. The disc's final track, Led Zeppelin's classic "Kashmir," might seem an odd inclusion until one realizes that it incorporates classical Moroccan, Indian and Middle Eastern musical motifs. Beiser's stunning interpretation highlights these elements while also relating the emotion in the song to the tracks that precede it. "Provenance" is yet another triumph for the virtuoso cellist who is helping to redefine the limits and the capabilities of modern classical music. Easily my favorite disc of 2010.