Philosopher, seeker after the truth, reconciler of science and religion, teacher, guru to artists, writers and musicians, Gurdjieff was an enigmatic figure; even his birthdate is uncertain: 1866 or 1877. He taught movements “to alter or heighten consciousness” at his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, located outside Paris—-a highly improvisatory process for which he composed equally improvisatory music. Technically untrained, he depended on skilled assistants to realize and write down his ideas, and found one in a devoted disciple: Ukranian pianist/composer Thomas de Hartmann, who selflessly suspended his own career and, after Gurdjieff’s death in 1948, privately published and recorded some of their collaborations.
As a composer, Gurdjieff, born at the border of Armenia and Turkey, was influenced by the region’s ethnic and cultural diversity, by his childhood memories of the religious and philosophical songs improvised by his father, a Greek troubadour, by the hymns of the Greek Orthodox Church, and by his extensive travels through Europe and Asia. For this recording, the performers themselves arranged his compositions for cello and piano, adding five pieces by pianist Tsabropoulos, including three based on Byzantine hymns.