Review: East of the River 

click to enlarge East of the River
  • East of the River

The fourth of six Festival Music Society sponsored Indianapolis early music programs delved into music seldom heard in this or any other series given locally, but there's one thing about it: It's got rhythm! Featuring co-founders and recorder players Nina Stern and Daphne Mor, East of the River also includes hand drummer Shane Shanahan, who underpins all the music, comprised of seven short sets, all from "east of the Danube/east of the Jordan" -- take your pick. Much of it is polyrhythmic.

But all five players, also including violinist Jesse Kotansky--who also plays the oud (an early lute) and Turkish born Tamer Pinerbasi, who plays the kanun (a 72-string instrument placed on one's lap, each string with a multi-pitch and multitimbre capability)--dovetailed perfectly with Shanahan's rhythms; they all owned them.

We started with a traditional English piece from the 14th century, but then veered east to traditional Armenian, traditional Bulgarian and traditional Greek. One piece in the second half was traditional Arabian. One composer from that part of the world lived in the 18th century while two others came from the 20th. They incorporated their period styles rather subtly into the mix of intricate melodic lines, fun-to-follow rhythmic structures, and a largesse of open-fourth harmonies which characterize Medieval music.

It was most enjoyable hearing music so different but so well revealed by players who could hardly have been exceeded by anyone exploring these historic eastern cultures in this manner. July 1; Indiana History Center

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