Jóhann Jóhannsson: Orphée (LP, Deutsche Grammafon, October 2016)

The first thing to say is that the 15 short pieces that make up Orphée are some of the most beguilingly beautiful classical music I’ve heard in a very long time. In fact, for a moment I considered leaving this note at that one sentence: everything else seems secondary. But I’m probably being overly sentimental, so we shall proceed. These works — or perhaps this work, for the tracks very much work together to form a greater whole — represent Jóhannsson’s first major solo effort since 2011’s awesome The Miners’ Hymns (sorry, but he’s wasted on soundtracks). They are primarily based around piano (played by Jóhannsson) and strings (the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, the AIR Lyndhurst string orchestra, with additional cello from the wonderful Hildur Guðnadóttir), with a few tracks additionally featuring organs, a choir (the Theatre Of Voices), electronics, and samples of numbers stations. The liner notes talk about the creative process involved, citing inspiration from Ovid’s telling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, Maurice Blanchot‘s commentary on Ovid, Jean Cocteau’s magical 1950 film inspired by the myth (the use of numbers stations here is a reference to the mysterious radio broadcasts of abstract poetry in Cocteau’s movie), and Jóhannsson’s own relocation (he moved from Copenhagen to Berlin during the lengthy gestation of this project). All of which is fascinating stuff and adds real depth to my enjoyment. But the key thing is still that this is some of the most beguilingly beautiful classical music I’ve heard in a very long time.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Modern Classical / Ambient.

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