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'Lontano' allows Anja Lechner and Francois Couturier the space to improvise / LondonJazz News

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German cellist Anja Lechner is probably known above all for the album Chants, Hymns and Dances she recorded in 2004 with pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos, which went to the top of the US classical charts. That earlier album explored the music of George Gurdjieff, the Armenian-born mystic and composer whose life inspired director Peter Brook to make the film Meetings with Remarkable Men. Gurdjieff's music comes from the crossroads between Asia and Europe and between Western and Eastern traditions, and that is the frontier which continues to inspire Lechner and her frequent collaborator French pianist François Couturier. Both musicians have had illustrious careers – in Lechner's case as a member of the Rosamunde Quartett and in a duo with Dino Saluzzi; in Couturier's case in ensembles led by the celebrated Anouar Brahem – but it is together that Lechner and Couturier make their most personal and evocative recordings.

Lontano is the second album Lechner and Couturier have recorded as a duo of just violoncello and piano following their 2014 album Moderato Cantabile. This album is not just a sequel to this earlier release – which was principally a recording of music by composers such as Mompou and Gurdjieff – it also allows the two musicians the space to improvise. This is relatively unusual for a classically trained cellist, although this is far from the first time that Lechner has done so, but is surely second nature for Couturier whose background is as a jazz pianist, performing with the likes of Michel Portal and John McLaughlin.