Osvaldo Golijov
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Ayre [work details]
Deutsche Grammophon 0004782-02
Released 09-27-05

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For all tracks:
Dawn Upshaw, soprano
The Andalucian Dogs:
Tara O'Connor, flute • David Krakauer, clarinet • Jamie Sommerville, horn • Ljova, viola • Erik Friedlander, violoncello • Mark Dresser, double bass • Bridget Kibbey, harp • Michael Ward-Bergeman, hyper-accordion • Gustavo Santaolalla, guitar/ronroco • Jamie Haddad, percussion • Jeremy Flower, sound design & laptop

Track 1Mañanita de San Juan
Dawn, St. John's Day
Traditional Sephardic romance
Track 2Una madre comió asado
A mother roasted her child
Traditional Sephardic song after The Lamentations of Jeremiah
Track 3Tancas serradas a muru
Walls are encircling the land
Lyrics and Music by Melchiorre Murenu (Sardinia, c. 1820); Francesco Ignazio Mannu (Sardinia, c. 1795)
Track 4Luna
Music by Gustavo Santaolalla (instrumental)
Track 5NaniTraditional Sephardic lullaby
Track 6Wa Habibi
My love
Traditional Christian Arab Easter song
Track 7Aiini taqtiru
My eyes weep
Traditional Christian Arab Easter song
Track 8Kun li-guitari wataran ayyuha al-maa'
Be a string, water, to my guitar
Poem by Mahmoud Darwish (from Eleven Planets in the Last Andalusian Sky)
Track 9Suéltate las cintas
Untie your ribbons
Lyrics and Music: Gustavo Santaolalla
Track 10Yah, annah emtza'cha
O God, where shall I find you?
Poem by Yehudah Halevy (c. 1112)
Track 11Ariadna en su laberinto
Ariadne in her labyrinth
Lyrics: Traditional Sephardic romance

"Ayre," a new song cycle by the Argentinean-born composer Osvaldo Golijov, which Deutsche Grammophon is releasing on CD on September 27th, is not only an ecstatically beautiful piece but also a radical and disorienting one. Many people, on first encountering its rasping sonorities, hurtling rhythms, and welters of lament, will be unsure whether they are listening to pop music or to classical music or to some folk ritual of indeterminate origin. However they answer, they will be right. Golijov, whose work will be celebrated at a major festival at Lincoln Center in January and February, has woven his cycle from a skein of Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian, and Sephardic material. He has enlisted the Argentinean rock producer, film composer, and guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla to give heft and color to the sound; this music jumps out of the speakers in a way that classical records seldom do. Dawn Upshaw, the soprano, delivers an electrifying performance in which she assumes a half-dozen vocal guises. Early in the record she makes a hairpin turn from a fragile, softly glowing Sephardic song entitled "Una Madre Comió Asado" to a bloodcurdling Sardinian number entitled "Tancas Serradas a Muru"—I had to double-check the credits to make sure that Upshaw was still the singer. If a modern classical work could ever crack the Top 40, this is it: Golijov has created a new beast, of bastard parentage and glorious plumage.

—Alex Ross, The New Yorker

You might say that composer Osvaldo Golijov was extraordinarily lucky to attract the attention of performers like the Kronos Quartet and soprano Dawn Upshaw, to name just two of his champions. But the attention only arrived because of Golijov's own vibrant musical voice, eclectic in its range but always deeply personal. Written for Upshaw, his song cycle Ayre (2004) is certainly among his most effective, moving, and memorable works to date; it may be too soon to start talking about 21st-century classics, but here's an early contender. The 11 songs share a background in the historical intermingling of Christian, Arab, and Sephardic Jewish cultures in Spain, with texts drawn from all these traditions and music that blurs the sacred and the profane, alluding to klezmer and flamenco and mixing electronic sounds with traditional instruments. Upshaw has always been a versatile singer, but she achieves an expressive range here that goes far beyond anything she's done – at times, in a keening lament or an ecstatic cry, it's hard to recognize her voice at all. A singular triumph for Upshaw and Golijov alike, Ayre also showcases a superb chamber ensemble (whimsically dubbed the Andalucian Dogs, though without any overt apology to Luis Buñuel) and marks the beginning of a well-deserved partnership between the composer and the venerable Deutsche Grammophon label. Ayre's disc-mate is an equally wonderful (and even more multilingual) work, Luciano Berio's Folksongs (1964), written for the infinitely resourceful vocalist Cathy Berberian (who also happened to be the composer's wife). This cycle inspires another great performance from Upshaw, perhaps the most compelling on record since Berberian's own, and Ayre and Folksongs together make for a combination too richly satisfying to be missed.

—Scott Paulin, BN.com (Barnes and Noble)