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Giorgio KOUKL (b.1953)
Chamber Music

Musica per pianoforte e quartetto d'archi [12'19"]
Klaidi Sahatci and Hans Liviabella (violins); Ivan Vukcevic (viola); Taisuke Yamashita (cello); Giorgio Koukl (piano)
Piccola rapsodia per flauto e arpa [10'20"]
Bruno Grossi (flute); Anna Loro (harp)
Il messaggero per pianoforte [8'02"]
Giorgio Koukl (piano)
Contest trio per violino, violoncello e pianoforte [8'54"]
Klaidi Sahatci (violin); Taisuke Yamashita (cello); Giorgio Koukl (piano)
Liturgia di San Giovanni Chrisostomo [19'44"]
John Duxbury (tenor)
James Loomis (bass)
Chorus of Swiss Radio/Giorgio Koukl
No recording details; via Swiss Radio recordings
GASPARO GSCD 362 [59.36]

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Koukl was born in Prague in 1953 and studied at the Conservatoire there and later in Zurich and Milan; he now lives in Switzerland. A crucial turning point in his compositional life came early. In 1974 he heard a choral work by Penderecki - we’re not told what it was - that profoundly altered his creative imperatives and resulted in a fundamental turning away from the prevailing avant-garde. As we can hear throughout this disc his music, whilst never unduly complex, has developed a thoughtful and attractive character and sounds thoroughly idiomatically written as well. None is dated in the notes so it’s difficult, if not impossible, to trace the trajectory of the works’ composition.

Musica per pianoforte e quartetto d'archi is one that can summon up the axis of Shostakovich and Martinů. To be fair the notes do deal with a list of (assumed) influences on Koukl and they refer specifically to the former in relation to this taut twelve-minute study. But there is also the Parisian neo-classicism of the Czech composer that so well infuses this Quintet. The lean melancholic cello intones over a brittle piano and urgent violin pizzicati before a long and quizzically meditative piano solo ends the first of the three movements. The heart of this attractive work is the Espressivo slow movement – yearning solos wind through it and the harmony, basically traditional, is attractive, the thread well sustained. It is meant to evoke a chilly night. We get a fast, furious and quick finale to close.

Piccola rapsodia per flauto e arpa by contrast evokes pure Gallic air. Something of the influence of Les Six is here and in its crisp, bright immediacy it has the bracing coldness of spring water – though later on we do find a more reflective and crepuscular side of the French muse. Il messaggero was inspired by an idea of a messenger running around the world and cleverly Koukl evokes this (he’s the pianist on this recording) through means of motoric speed and then more elegantly reflective moments presumably reflecting the moments when the messenger "touches as many people as possible." This becomes palpable in the compact final section – big, big, spaced chords. The Contest Trio was originally written for clarinet and piano. It’s a tightly argued conversation piece of brisk incident. Finally Liturgia di San Giovanni Chrisostomo. This was inspired by his interest in and enthusiasm for selections from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostomos. It’s set in Slavonic and at around twenty minutes is the longest work here. It’s an immediately appealing one as well – moving from grave monumentality to intimacy, with strong roles for the choir and the two male soloists, whose sometimes strenuous pronouncements are followed by the "balm" of the choir’s responses.

So this is a slice of Koukl in the round; a versatile, warm composer with strong affiliations with the clarity and precision of the French schools and the more rugged piety of the Eastern Church.

Jonathan Woolf



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