CD Review: Songs From Before/ Max Richter


It was a novel idea for a sleepover – a live, all-night performance by Max Richter, of his album Sleep. For eight hours, patrons immersed themselves in Richter’s inimitable music. Performing with him in the spaces of the Sydney Opera House were his colleagues who also featured on the album – New York’s American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME)  and British soprano Grace Davidson.

Deutsche Grammophon has released Richter’s 2006 album Songs From Before. Originally released on FatCat Records, the album was reissued by DG in April 2014 with a bonus track, Leo.

Performing on Songs From Before,  are violinists Louisa Fuller and Natalia Bonner, viola player John Metcalfe and cellists Ian Burdge and Chris Worsey. Robert Wyatt reads from the words of contemporary Japanese writer Haruki Murakami (b 1949). Richter himself performs on piano and electronics.

Richter has composed all 13 tracks on the album – an ambient wash of sound in minimalist style, created from classical, electronic and acoustic elements. There are references to nature (Autumn Music 1 and 2, Sunlight) and a collection of abstractions (Time Passing, Lullaby, Verses, Harmonium). Some tracks are deeply soothing; others are restless.

Listening to this album in 2016, a decade after it was first heard, I can only imagine the wonderment at how deliciously novel it must have sounded in 2006. Is it as surprising in 2016 as it was in 2006? You be the judge.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

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