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Available from ALTRI SUONI


Giorgio KOUKL (b.1953)
Musica Vocale
Tre Canti Disperati [19.37]
Roberta Invernizzi (soprano)
Giorgio Koukl (piano)
Quattro Pezzi per Pianoforte [6.05]
Giorgio Koukl (piano)
Niponari [9.46]
Keiko Kashima (contralto)
Leandro Hgalassi and Valentino Marré (percussion)
Giorgio Koukl (piano, harpsichord, celesta, glockenspiel)
Ceremony After A Fire Raid [19.01]
Carole Manzoni (soprano)
Giorgio Koukl (piano)
Recorded in the Auditorium of RSI Lugano, August 1997 (Tre Canti Disperati), November 1983 (Quattro Pezzi per Pianoforte and Niponari) and September 1987 (Ceremony After A Fire Raid) ALTRI SUONI AS037 [55.29]

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This is my second chance to listen to a selection of music by the Czech-born Giorgio Koukl. For some details see my previous review of a Gasparo disc. I enjoyed that disc greatly for its discreet exploration of the composer’s musical inheritance, an admixture of Franco-Czech influences (Les Six, Martinu) and wider influences such as Penderecki. The results are commendably fluent and imaginative.

Here we have a largely vocal programme. The notes mention the name of Dallapiccola in passim and it’s true that in these settings Koukl’s music does bear some impression from such sources (Koukl was born in 1953, studied in Italy and has lived in Switzerland for many years). Tre Canti Disperati for soprano and piano is a melancholic triptych setting, one that stretches the vocal resources of the soloist very high in the first. This also sports a rather hypnotic caged-lion quality to the piano writing, as well as moments of parlando from the soprano and a whispered intensity in the final bars. The central song lightens this concentrated intensity somewhat but the direction is still desolate until an almost plush chordal romanticism slides in to create an impression at least of resolution. Insistent and unrelenting the third has a strong confessional feel to it that put me in mind of Poulenc, and little things such as the nagging, tied bass note give an ominous, onerous weight to the music.

Koukl is the soloist in his Quattro Pezzi per Pianoforte, small and brisk works. These range from vigorous glowering to Prokofiev and Parisian influences and in the Ostinato third a pressing impressionism. The final one of the set has great grandeur and also some nature depiction sounding like rainfall. His Haiku setting Niponari is once more a study in contrasts and colour, something of which Koukl is exceptionally proficient. The first Haiku demonstrates the point in its reflective and allusive colouration and the second is a March affair – they’re not separately tracked and you’ll need to pay attention to follow them. But elsewhere we also find some dramatic, almost brutal and florid outbursts as well as elliptical settings.

Koukl also sets Dylan Thomas’s Ceremony After A Fire Raid, a dense memorial to which the composer responds with unforgiving concentration. The repetition of “a child” in Among the street may suggest a softening of approach but it’s illusory. The grave second setting leads to the suggestion in the piano part of a chorale and the final poem touches the idea of some kind of consoling. Though even here the ripples rise to angry agitation.

All of the performances of these works, once more undated, are fully committed and the Lugano radio studio provides the recording location. The Italian poems are not translated into another language, though the Haiku are. Another diverting and toughly lyrical disc from Koukl.

Jonathan Woolf


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