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  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
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Giorgio KOUKL (b.1953)
Drops of Light

Fantasia [9.35]
Jaroslav Klepáč and Miroslav Langer (pianos)

Trioplay [12.03]
Josef Vacek (oboe) Miloš Bydžovský (clarinet) Josef Svárovský (bassoon)

Five Miniatures [5.38]
Giorgio Koukl (harpsichord)
Ritournelles [6.16]
Josef Vacek (oboe) Josef Svárovský (bassoon)
Narcisse [7.13]
Enrico Cappelletti and Enrico Quadri (violins) Akira Okitsu (viola) Mauro Poggio (cello)
Fylgjur [3.19]
Alfred Rutz (flute)
Contest Piece [10.16]
Jiří Koukl (clarinet) Giorgio Koukl (piano)

Divertimento [10.30]
Alfred Rutz (flute) Miklos Barta (oboe) Eric Schmid (clarinet) Martin Wunderle (bassoon) William Bilenko (horn)
No recording locations or details
GASPARO GSCD 355 [65.29]




This is my second Koukl-Gasparo encounter. The earlier review of his entertaining GSCD 362 can be found above. What is securely reinforced in this disc is his rightly unashamed admiration for Parisian neo-classicists and for broader Czech and Italian influences. Koukl has renounced "isms" in his compositions; he has retrenched after youthful experimentation with then contemporary delight in obscurantism and has allied a strong technical palette with a keen ear for lyricism. Other pieces I’ve heard of his – his vocal works especially - possess a tough kind of lyricism, it’s true, but his chamber music is more yielding, more obviously attractive.

Some of these chamber pieces were written for competitions but that doesn’t lessen their impact or attractiveness. The Fantasia for two pianos is a brisk neo-classical affair full of driving rhythm and also turbulent romanticism. It was recorded live by the forces for whom it was written and is a real crowd pleaser. A School of Martinů, Paris-style, hovers over much of the nicely titled Trioplay. This is a flavoursome, playful four movement Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon written in the best Czech wind tradition. In the Espressivo second movement I felt the influence of Vaclav Trojahn very strongly – that balletic-baroque lyricism is gloriously uplifting and evocative (when are we going to have a co-ordinated Trojahn edition from Supraphon?) But we also get a loquacious and chatty finale, full of chuntering conversation, some grave, some whimsical, all amusingly done.

Written for a competition the Five Miniatures are for solo harpsichord and are played here by the composer, an accomplished keyboard player. They take in wandering baroque-tinged harmonies, skittering runs, dense chording, some motoric writing and a dash of quirkiness as well. Note the mis-tracking here – the last of the pieces is tracked on 7 so if you turn to the Ritournelles you’ll have one minute of the last of the Five Miniatures to confuse you first. As the names suggests there’s more Parisian influence in the Ritournelles with their perky little March figures but you won’t escape a pervading edge of melancholia either. The most harmonically advanced and passingly dissonant of all the works here is that for string quartet, Narcisse. Compact and colourful it’s full of shifting timbres and contrast and at seven minutes seems to be over before you’ve noticed. Contest Piece has plenty of fast runs, lower register work and room for expressive projection – it’s an occasional piece, written for a competition. Divertimento is decidedly Francophile in its affiliations and is finely laid out for wind quintet and sports some piquant sonorities; pithy end as well, to lift the spirits.

As with all the discs of Koukl’s works that I’ve seen none of his compositions is dated. But this one shares with the others a strong sense of traditional lineage, one not in thrall to the past but cognisant and respectful of it. If the chamber music of Les Six, Martinů, Trojahn, and Poulenc appeals to you then so will Koukl.

Jonathan Woolf

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