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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Karsten FUNDAL (b.1966)
Chamber Music

Zoom (1997)
The Wings of a Butterfly for clarinet, violin, viola and accordion (1996-97)
Traces for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1995)
The Ways of Lightness and Falling for clarinet, piano and cello (1991)
Two Simple Movements for flute, violin, cello and piano (1995-96)
Ritornello al contrario for percussion and sinfonietta (1997)
Thomas Sandberg (percussion)
Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen/Giordano Bellincampi
Recorded at the Radio House Concert Hall, Copenhagen between August 1999 and May 2000
DACAPO 8.224164 [55.28]

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The boxed biographical panel on the back of this Dacapo disc notes Karsten Fundal’s teachers; Hans Abrahamsen and Ib Nørholm. He also took a course given by Morton Feldman at Dartington Hall and studied with Louis Andriessen. Fundal has risen to prominence since his mid-twenties after much thought, experimentation and synthesis – his interests run from Keith Jarrett to Xenakis. Anders Beyer’s sleevenotes on the man – Thomas Michelsen writes on the music – make much of the composer’s desire to find a system (it’s termed a feedback, or dynamic, system) – but I listened to Fundal’s compositions in the context of form and instrumentation, rhythm and colour.

The compositions on this disc span much of the last decade, a decade in which Fundal found his appropriate system (which happened during studies in Aarhus). Zoom, which was composed in 1997, opens with a determined piano and is full of mysterious and characterful writing. Fundal is meticulous over dynamic and rhythmic increments and includes some fine interjectory writing for percussion and brass – some of which take on the incipient heroism of a chorale (ultimately and mysteriously unresolved) and mark the high point of the work’s drama, of "zooming" in and across the palette of the work (hence the title). The Wings of a Butterfly makes verbal reference to Chaos Theory and takes the idea of increasing outward complexity to a new level. There is indeed after the initial violin and accordion unison introduction a constant and ceaseless developmental motion, shifting sonorities between the four instruments (clarinet and viola in addition to the two mentioned). This creates new patterns, in terms of sonority and colour (I especially liked the way Fundal exploits the clarinet’s lower register, giving it an insistent and percussive profile). The descending motifs in Traces come in varied patterns, some slow and dreamy, but once more Fundal’s clarinet can be a relatively combustible protagonist, adding colour and drive. Fundal also extracts some spectral sonorities from his quartet, slows to take in mordancy and a withdrawn episode before a calming lento conclusion.

The Ways of Lightness and Falling is the earliest of these works, dating as it does from 1991. It’s a clarinet trio, lasting some twelve minutes and probably the uneasiest work here. Opening shrilly, flecked with violent outbursts and piano clusters with the clarinet at the top of its register, it’s by no means an uncomplicated listen. The cello reaches ever more uncomfortably higher in the register, and the slow burgeoning sense of stasis that develops is never conciliatory, but is always consumed with fear, before brutally interrupted by the piano, which seems to assert itself primus inter pares as the work develops. As the work concludes though it’s the cello that ascends once more, quietly and decisively and ends the work in mystifying abstraction. The Two Simple Movements of 1995-96 are excellent examples of Fundal’s rhythmic interests – and the use to which patterns and rhythmic displacements can be put. Finally Ritornello al contrario, which is a percussion concerto in all but name. In the first movement the soloist, Thomas Sandberg, uses everything from wood to metal, whilst in the slow movement ("calmo") little gentle flecks charmingly insinuate themselves into the line until toward the end of the movement, preparing for the boisterous finale, the music becomes ever more military and strong willed. Plenty of colour and motion here although I must say I prefer Fundal in more concentrated, intricate forms.

Splendid production values from Dacapo and fine notes.

Jonathan Woolf



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