Music of the Sultans,
Sufis & Seraglio, Vol. IV:
Ottoman Suite

(Traditional Crossroads, 2001)

This is my second review for Turkish ensemble Lalezar as they continue their series on the Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio released by Traditional Crossroads. The thirteen pieces showcased on Vol. IV: Ottoman Suite present works from 10 different Turkish composors, most of whom lived during the 19th and 20th centuries. (See my earlier review of Vol. III: Minority Composers for more information on Lalezar and the instruments used in this recording.)

The music on Ottoman Suite is very similar in style to Minority Composers. In fact, if the songs were played in a mixed order, I would not be able to tell you which CD each individual song came from. Perhaps this is a good thing in that these CDs are part of a series and meant to complement each other. However, it also tells you that I missed the subtle differences that I know placed certain songs on one volume versus the other. Ottoman Suite contains four instrumentals, one song with male vocals, one song with female vocals and seven songs with both male and female vocals. Topics in the songs deal with royalty, love, joy and sadness.

Like the previous volume, this CD comes with a 40-page insert. The first half gives details about the various composers and provides translations for some of the lyrics. The insert goes into extraordinary detail comparing the similarities and differences between Ottoman musical styles versus several other Middle-Eastern variations. The second half of the insert is identical to the previous volume and contains extensive information about Lalezar plus the origin and traditions of Ottoman music. While each CD is set up to complement the others in the series, these two, at least, can stand on their own as well.

Both of these CDs from the Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio series will likely appeal only to those people who can appreciate a series of serious recordings. This is music for a thinker -- someone who likes to focus on what they are listening to. Neither volume would make a better introduction than the other to the music of the Ottoman Empire. I would recommend each of them equally. My only caution is that I would suggest that you only try one to begin with so that you can decide on your own whether this style of music interests you. This is not music for the masses.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 14 July 2001

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