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The Independent Culture

27 October 1999

27 October 1999

Gidon Kremer and Naoko Yoshino: Insomnia (Philips)

This is the sort of disc that sends record company executives into trauma when their artists propose it. At face value it's an all-round loser: an odd combination of instruments - violin and harp - playing an odd combination of music by composers as dissimilar as Richard Strauss, John Cage and Nino Rota. But for the charisma of the violinist, Gidon Kremer, and his history of turning offbeatprojects into serious successes, the executives would probably have made their excuses and left. But they didn't, and Kremer has kissed the frog and found a prince. Or two. The pieces here are little-known but delightful. Some are diamond-studded miniatures, such as Kaija Saariaho's Nocturne and Strauss's Daphne Etude. Some - like Cage's Six Melodies - were originally written for other instruments. But by some small miracle of prescience they fit together. And they even live quite comfortably beside the score from which the disc derives its name: an anxious piece of Asian avant-gardism by Yuji Takahashi that works better than any description of its improvisatory processes would suggest. You won't sleep through it.