Mimi Novic & Edmond Fokker transcend the concept of time and place with “Seven Prayers of Love”. A mixture of composers is drawn from with the help of Edmond Fokker’s impressive solo performances. He plays with feeling for the seven performances are highly passionate, and the composers were chosen with the utmost of consideration. The romantic cadence of these pieces is further extended through the guided meditation of Novic’s soothing, steady pace. With her voice adding yet another instrument into the already lively mix, the sound gains a multitude of meaning. For one, there is the history behind each of these pieces which helps the listener down the journey, giving them some context. Fokker’s performance interprets it within his own framework, adding to that tradition with something new, taking the past and grounding it in the present moment. Novic’s poetry, guidance, however one wishes to call it gives the work a sense of a future. By blending these three elements together one gets the sense of an album that seemingly ties together the past, present, and future.
The importance of self-reflection gains a particular poignancy in part due to the large amount of time people are spending alone. Many of these works sort of emphasize the self, both directly in their lineage and her narration, as well as indirectly in terms of their origin. A few of these pieces do have the added benefit of coming from individuals well-known for toiling away diligently only to later receive recognition for their efforts. Certainly, that is the case with the two Johann Sebastian Bach pieces, though I must admit a strong fondness for the way that Bach kept things so simple yet so undeniably elegant, and Fokker’s approach to the two pieces is quite inspired. With the Sergei Rachmaninoff, another facet becomes clear, the importance of memory.
It is Rachmaninoff’s “Dance Of Life with Vocalization” that opens the album on a high note, with a lush, beguiling performance. Novic frames the work effectively, and the piece incorporates a lot of the romantic vigor that makes Rachmaninoff’s output so deeply satisfying. With “Sweet Soul with Souvenir de Vienne” in the key of F major, Fokker’s pacing proves to be lovely, doing great justice to Heinz Provost’s piece. Emotionally charged, Novic’s voice proves to neatly dovetail into his impassioned performance. “Promise of Love with Largo” revels in the dreamy world of Francesco Maria Veracini, as there is a majesty to the way it unfurls, seemingly soaring up into the sky at times, with Novic’s voice drifting away at an easy-going pace. Jules Massenet, whose own work faced a certain degree of assessment and reassessment even within his own lifetime, poured his soul into his craft. Fokker and Novic explore that sense of boundless opportunity on “Sorrow of Tears with Meditation”. Delicate flourishes on “Hidden Mysteries with Intermezzo” show Fokker and Novic taking one of Pietro Mascagni’s most famous works and imbuing it with new life. Bach’s “Yearning with Aria” is pure hope, and Fokker’s reverence for the source material is brilliant, as is his technique within the work. Novic’s word choice has a kindness to it, for every detail is magnified. Neatly bringing the whole of the album to a fantastic finale is the sheer bliss of “Unknown Path with Ave Maria”, doubling down on the Bach, but honestly that is never a bad idea.
“Seven Prayers of Love” features the tremendous dual force of Mimi Novic & Edmond Fokker in delivering something so soulful, vibrant, and living.