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Violin Encounters
Brian FERNEYHOUGH (b.1943)

Intermedio alla Ciaccona (1986)
Unsichtbare Farben (1997/8)
Keiko HARADA (b.1968)

Labyrinth X (1997/9)
David YOUNG

Animali (2002)
Patrick DE CLERCK (b.1958)

Ai Morti (2001)
Luciano BERIO (1925 – 2003)

Sequenza VIII (1976)
Michael MAIERHOF (b.1956)

Splitting 5 (2001)
Yasutaka Hemmi (violin)
rec. Studio Sphere, Matsue, Japan (no date)
MEGADISC MDC 7813 [70:13]

 

All but one of these pieces are for solo violin. This generous selection brilliantly demonstrates the wide ranging approach adopted by contemporary composers from various generations and horizons, both musically and geographically.

The earliest work here is Berio’s well-known Sequenza VIII, which is – as far as I am concerned – one of the finest in the whole Sequenza series. Written for Carlo Chiarappa, whom I once heard play this very piece, the work exploits some limited basic material with much invention and imagination, without ever resorting to any "gimmick" of modern violin playing. It is superbly written for the instrument; and, as most other pieces here, calls for considerable virtuosity and musicality. It is an accessible and most rewarding piece of music.

Ferneyhough’s pieces are rather more demanding, Intermedio alla Ciaccona particularly so. Intermedio is one of the solo pieces that are part of Ferneyhough’s cycle Carceri d’Invenzione; never recorded complete. The music is technically exacting. In comparison, the later Unsichtbare Farben ("Invisible Colours") is on the whole more accessible, although still demanding. This may be due to the fact that the music obliquely refers to some borrowed material - in this case, part of Ockeghem’s Missa Caput - and to the melodic and even melodious character of much of the music.

Australian-born David Young’s music is new to me. His Animali for solo violin is part of a series of pieces under the title of Val Camonica inspired by bronze age carvings from the Camonica valley in northern Italy. The player has to switch between normal and graphic notation. We are also told that the entire last page of the score consists of the cave drawings being superimposed on a blank music stave. I still do not know how music can be made this way, but I must admit that this piece is fine indeed.

Patrick De Clerck is not only the driving force of Megadisc but also a very fine composer whose music is available in two other Megadisc releases (MDC 7847 and MDC 7866). Ai Morti for solo violin is an attractive piece, often modally inflected, in which contrapuntal writing is brilliantly suggested. In some parts of the work, the violinist has to add humming tones, then achieving some real counterpoint.

Maierhof’s Splitting 5 is for violin and CD-Player. Pre-recorded sounds on the CD are aeroplane noises and whiffs of pop song, whereas the violin is "prepared" with a small plastic clothes peg. Well, yes, but this long (too long) piece amounts to very little of any real musical substance. As far as I am concerned, this piece of musical vacuum is the only real disappointment in this otherwise superb release.

Hemmi is a very fine player with a remarkable technique, who – judging from the photographs on the cover and in the insert notes – has also developed a rather personal, idiosyncratic playing style that probably adds to his performances in public, although I am not at all sure that such acrobatics are really necessary. Fortunately enough, his playing is eloquent and may be fully appreciated without the visual aspect. Well worth investigating.

Hubert Culot



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