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Alpha - Through the Looking Glass: Ruders, Nørgård, Abrahamsen, Sørensen (2013

17-08-2016, 18:44
Classical Music | FLAC / APE

Title: Through the Looking Glass: Ruders, Nørgård, Abrahamsen, Sørensen
Year Of Release: 2013
Label: Dacapo
Genre: Classical
Quality: FLAC (cue+log+scans)
Total Time: 56:40
Total Size: 253 MB


POUL RUDERS (b. 1949)
Star Prelude and Love Fugue (1990)
01. Star Prelude (03:22)
02. Love Fugue (02:35)

PER NØRGÅRD (b. 1932)
03. Heyday's Night (08:27)

04. Flowersongs (09:59)
05. Schnee, Canon 2a (07:57)

06. BLooking on Darkness (09:15)

07. Carnival (05:38)

08. Isternia (09:23)

Alpha is a Danish new-music ensemble consisting of Bolette Roed (recorder), Peter Navarro-Alonso (saxophone) and David Hildebrandt (percussion). THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is their second release on the Dacapo label and sees them reworking existing compositions.

All of the pieces here have been around for some years, and most have been recorded as the composer wrote them. Alpha arranges them for their own instrumentation and, what's more, plays the resulting arrangements from memory. This is a fine recital of Danish music, and a reminder that even its modernists are writing music with a clear line that performers and listeners can follow.

Bent Sørensen's "Looking on Darkness" (2000) was originally written for solo accordion, and a moving performance of that can be heard on Froede Halti's ECM recital. Sørensen has developed a highly individual soundworld where the classical past is evoked but never fully realized. Microtonal inflections, rhythmic distortion and other unusual effects give the music a feeling of decay, like looking at an antique painting. The opening figure in this piece is gradually wiped out, still there in spirit but completely effaced, before appearing at the end in imperfect form. In Alpha's version, the percussionist soon moves to the marimba and makes this a very different work than the original.

Hans Abrahamsen's "Schnee" (2005) is a masterpiece of minimalism, stripping canons from J.S. Bach down to their bare, skeletal essence. (Hear the whole enchanting hour-long piece on a Winter & Winter disc). Alpha have extracted Canon 2a from "Schnee", and what distinguishes their performance is a remarkable amount of "swing", making the piece sound rather like the "Zen jazz" of Nik Bärtsch's Ronin. They also add a bit of whistling towards the end.

Abrahamsen's "Flowersongs" (1973) is also a minimalist work, but fast and frenetic, a motoric vortex like much of his music at the time. The original version for three flutes, which I haven't heard yet, has been recorded on another disc from this label.

Poul Ruders doesn't typically write in a minimalist vein, but his "Star Prelude" here is highly melodic and highly repetitive. "Love Fugue", however, is intricately contrapuntal as its name suggests, but no less charming. This 1990 work was originally for solo piano, and can be heard that way on another disc from this label. I've often found Ruders a mediocre composer, but these two short movements are very strong.

Per Nørgård contributes two very different pieces here. "Isternia" (1979), originally for cimbalom/marimba (hear it on another disc from this label) is a tranquil, timeless music. Alpha's arrangement brings klangfarbenmelodie to the original. But right after he wrote this piece, Nørgård's style drastically changed, and "Heyday's Night" (1981), originally for cello, alto recorder and harpsichord, has a yin-yang form where idyll in the first half of the piece changes to catastrophe in the second.

I usually don't care for arrangements, let alone quasi-improvised ones, and expected to be disappointed by this disc. To my surprise and joy, the music here fully preserves the spirit of the originals and takes them in worthy new directions.

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