Music News & Reviews

CD review: ‘Dreams and Prayers’

Band blends music and spirituality

Music and spirituality have gone hand-in-hand for centuries. Boston-based string orchestra, A Far Cry, demonstrates that concept beautifully in its new CD, “Dreams and Prayers.” Its creative programming links works from the 12th to the 21st centuries, incorporating varieties of religious mysticism.

First comes “O ignis spiritus paracliti,” a Gregorian chant by Benedictine nun Hildegard von Bingen, whose constant visions influenced her music. This non-vocal arrangement has hypnotic focus, the melody’s repetitive undulations coaxing the listener into a trance-like state.

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol’s 2012 “Vecd” mimics Turkish Sufi dervishes’ rhythmic vocalizing. Here the phrases gradually overlap and speed up to create an amazingly intense climax, then slowly fade to a whisper.

The heart of the disc is Osvaldo Golijov’s “Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind,” originally written for clarinet and string quartet in 1994 but arranged for string orchestra here. This 33-minute, five-movement work was inspired by the 13th century rabbi who wrote about the communal aspects of all things in the universe. Golijov combines traditional klezmer dance tunes with Jewish sung prayers, which clarinetist David Krakauer invests with reverence or abandon, depending on each section’s mood.

The final selection, an orchestrated version of the hymn-like middle movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 132, is a fitting end to this musical journey. Titled “Holy Song of Thanks,” the quiet uplift of its harmonious lyricism exemplifies music’s ability to take us into higher realms, away from everyday woes.

Correspondent Roy C. Dicks