Gig review: Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble, Glasgow

Jan Garbarek, left, with members of the soon'to'retire Hilliard Ensemble, produce a magical fusion
Jan Garbarek, left, with members of the soon'to'retire Hilliard Ensemble, produce a magical fusion
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There was a magical sense on Friday that the walls of Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Gallery could speak, given how the miasmic fusion of Norwegian Jan Garbarek’s improvised saxophone and the four-man Hilliard Ensemble’s mystical singing found such ambient affinity with the building’s Italianate arches, vaultings and generous acoustics.

Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble - Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow

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This is the Hilliard’s 40th and final year of existence, prior to retiring. And for more than half that lifespan, the initially-accidental collaboration with Garbarek – as epitomised in their third joint album, Officium Novum, the basis of this programme – has been central to their public appeal. Proof of that lay in Friday’s full house.

An album is one thing. The live experience was quite another, in which the unbroken 80-minute sequence of music – vocal repertoire ranging from 16th century Iberian composer Cristóbal de Morales to more recent Eastern European music, supplemented by Garbarek’s organically improvised integrated responses – took on a visual dimension as the performers made imaginative itinerant use of the entire, marble-floored central hall.

It was a long sit, but one you could easily tune in and out of, gleaning the subliminal as well as the real impact of these impeccable performances. And there was a definable musical shape to the evening, the momentum of which ratcheted up from soft, unassuming opening, to the near-motorised jazz minimalism of its climactic centre point, to the theatrical fade-out effected by the recessional exit of the musicians into a distant side gallery.

Seen on 14.03.14