Tarvosky Films/Couturier

December 9, 2006


This is not a film score as we know it. This is also not classical music as we know it. Nor is it improvisational jazz either. The intrigue to this CD is the completely unique flavor and character, something which you likely haven’t heard before. The tie in to soundtrack material is the famed Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) which is quite odd considering the fact that Andrei’s personal conviction is that film doesn’t need music at all! Couturier, using his films as a starting point, takes a mood in his film, actor in a film, or cameraman and depending on the particular emotion creates a unique story to it. And the quartet! When was the last time you heard an accordion (Jean-Louis Matinier), soprano saxophone (Jean-Marc Larche), cello (Anja Lechner) and piano (Francois Couturier). An extremely unique but most effective combination of instrumentation. And they sounded like they had worked together for years, when in fact they had just recently formed for the first time.

12 selections cover (7) films that Tarkovsky did covering the period of 1962-1986. Especially moving, was Nostalghia, a 1983 film done in Italy when Andrei had defected. Beginning with the piano followed by the soprano sax we hear an eloquent upbeat solo, birdlike, with the constant playing of the same notes from the piano in the background. The cello is added, delicately plucking notes almost sounding like a bass as the accordion replaces the sax as the featured solo instrument. The piano plays it solo and the cello follows with its warm solo and the piece ends as it began with the piano playing the same scale of notes. Solaris (1972), which can be loosely likened to Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, has two tracks Solaris I & II which are quite unstructured in nature. Composed like a series of sounds (noises) each coming from the different instruments it translates itself into something that truly needs to be listened to and studied over a period of time to fully appreciate it. Le Sacrifice (1986), Tarkovsky’s last film and the first selection on the CD is quite dark and extremely somber in nature. This track features the accordion and the piano only in solo and also as a duet. Crepusculaire, also from the Le Sacrifice and the longest of the tracks at over 13 minutes is dedicated to the photographer Sven Nykvist, and offers playing from the cello as well as accordion and piano. Again it is fairly dark and somber in nature as were his films. There is the feeling especially in parts of the piano playing of a yearning and longing never fufilled. Couturier will offer a variety of tempo, switching without warning, quite evident on this track.

This CD has been in the player for two days now and it still feels like I am missing something. Hypnotizing is probably the best word that can be used to describe what you hear and yearning is the way much of it will make you feel. If you enjoy soundtracks, classical or jazz you will find this offering to be quite inviting. As stated earlier you cannot classify this as a film material but the crossover concept that it has to offer is so intriguing that as a reviewer it is quite fortunate that it was sent to me to cover and evaluate. It is one that I would have completely missed had it not been for the promotion company that sends me material that they feel is appropriate so that in turn it can be passed on to you.

As a side note the 28 page booklet contains some very nice photos from the Tarkovsky films as well as pictures of Tarvosky himself and the quartet. The recording and sound quality of the #1979 ECM CD are superb. This recording is going to surprise you but a word of caution please! It is not background, elevator, pre-recorded classical, or jazz. Don’t expect to sit and listen to this while you are trying to work on something else. It needs your full attention or you will miss the entire concept.


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