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Hymns & Dervishes: Music of Gurdjieff/De Hartmann - Liner Notes

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was a Greek-Armenian mystic who was active the early 20th century. He was widely known as a spiritual teacher and organized various schools to teach his methods in Europe, most notably in Fontainebleau, France, where he welcomed pupils from around the world.

His work in spiritual dance was an integral part of his method; the first contact for those unfamiliar with his work was often through public dance “concerts”. Several of these concerts were presented in Europe, most likely with composers Stravinsky and Prokofiev in the audience, among other important cultural figures. To accompany his dance exercises, Gurdjieff composed original music in close collaboration with the Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann, a spiritual disciple. They collaborated on works not only for the dance performances, but also for ensemble and for solo piano which at first glance seem to follow the musicologist/documentarian/composer movement that included Brahms (Hungarian Dances), Bartok (Rumanian Folk Songs) and Kodaly. But in fact, Gurdjieff/De Hartmann’s music is entirely original, inspired by Gurdjieff’s exposure to many sources of Middle-eastern and central European music, and amalgamated by his personal spiritual outlook, and shored up by De Hartmann’s impeccable Russian musical training.

The program here is made up of two distinct sets of pieces for solo piano. The Music for Dervishes is a large collection of original melodies and accompaniments that take their inspiration from various Middle-eastern traditions. Notated by de Hartmann from performances by Gurdjieff himself and carefully reworked to evoke the open harmonies and dissonances of the various regional scales, the Dervish pieces were destined for performance on a piano tuned to the well