These instantly accessible, genteel and well crafted works are inflected throughout by the composer’s diverse ethnic origins, especially Greece, Georgia and Russia. Most of the works make extensive use of the middle-Eastern sounding double harmonic scale – i.e. The one containing two augmented intervals. The string quartet lineup, while used conventionally, is afforded additional depth of timbre by the substitution of contrabass for second violin. The five movement suite after Pushkin is a good deal less action-packed than the original poem; more melancholy winter landscape studies than depictions of pursuing nightmares in a blizzard, though the pieces are very atmospheric.
This air of sombre reflection, expressed in a melodic, neo-romantic vocabulary, pervades most of the works on the disc. Two works depart somewhat from this formula; the plainchant-evoking piece owes more to Greek Orthodox church music than the middle-eastern ‘arabic scale’, and the delightful Variations [sic] sound like a transcription of a recitative and aria from a Mozart opera, with two ingeniously constructed variations. Minimalism puts in a brief appearance in one movement of Coachman, and Jazz in one of Concertato, but these are fleeting. Sound Collective.