Fancy a bit of Mediterranean warmth? There is a distinctly Greek cast to this pair of Karaindrou soundtracks, which both feature string orchestra.

Label: ECM
Time: 22 Tracks / 58 minutes

The first is incidental music for Wajdi Mouawad’s play Tous des Oiseaux, a work that Karaindrou calls “haunting.” That it ends with a violoncello solo entitled “Je ne me Consolerai pas” gives a clue as to its melancholy tone.

The Financial Times called the multi-lingual play, “a blistering return to form for the Lebanese-Canadian playwright.” It deals with identities and hinges on the relationship between two star-crossed lovers. The protagonist’s father, David, a fervent Zionist, learns that he is Palestinian by birth, breaking his sense of identity.

Drifting gently like summer clouds, the music is very sparse, sometimes just a flute solo or oboe and harp duet. Even where there are credits for percussion, it is restrained, such as the effect of occasional distant and muted gun fire in “The Confession.” The dawdling pace almost leaves you holding your breath.

The main theme was inspired by a traditional Greek song dating back to the 13th century, written to mourn the fall of Constantinople in 1204. Savina Yannatou’s simple, but striking, wordless vocal solo only appears four times, but acts as a touchstone for the rest of the work.

Its centrepiece is the string orchestra’s “David’s Dream,” where the drifting gives way briefly to a rising pulse of violins, creating a sense of mild apprehension.

Exotic instruments like lyre, ney and kanonaki mix with the more conventional tones of oboe and accordion to add the most discreet colours.

The second half is music for the Iranian film Bomb, a Love Story. In it, an innocent young boy loves being bombed, because he gets to see his neighbour’s daughter in the bomb shelter. It is a film that shows how, even when faced with the darkness of death, love and hope will find a way.

So, although the soundtrack is again slow and peaceful, this one is lighter. The theme begins on bassoon with string orchestra alongside, then moves to piano. Mandolin, lute and a particularly reserved accordion also feature.

This work is almost bookmarked by two gentle waltzes: “The Waltz of Hope” and “Reconciliation Theme,” which lift the mood and give body to themes that are more usually played with little embellishment – the closing track “Love’s First Call” contains little more than single piano notes.

The two soundtracks fit neatly together. First impressions are that the music is a little plain, but once the themes emerge, it becomes a thing of elegant beauty that leaves the listener in a state of peace.

Derek Walker