is a new name to me, but then, there are so many names yet
to be discovered by all of us. I am glad I have been
given the chance to listen to this. Having recently taken
the plunge and bought a new old car, I now have a new new
CD radio player to go with it. Listening to this while stopped
at the lights, window rolled down in the unseasonably warm
October weather, turned more heads at the tram stop than
any booming heavy disco!
on this CD consists of four world premiere recordings. The
two substantial string quartets which open and close the
disc are Ixxu and Cold Farmer, vividly performed
by the Munich-based Rosamunde Quartet, whose ECM recordings
have traversed an exceptionally wide range of musics from
Haydn to Saluzzi, from Webern to Mansurian, and from Burian
to Silvestrov. My Illness is the Medicine I Need
marks the ECM debut of the young American soprano Andrea
Lauren Brown and the first recorded appearance of Christoph
Poppen (violin) since his collaboration with the Hilliard
Ensemble in the Bach album Morimur. The cellist,
Thomas Demenga, Larcher’s longstanding musical comrade-in-arms
also plays Mumien with the composer himself at the
himself an acclaimed performer states, “My roots lie in
performance, and in decades of imprinting through the music
and formal ideas of the classics. My music is communicative:
it challenges the attentive listener but is meant to be
readily intelligible in concert.” This is indeed the case.
Ixxu is in a thoroughly modern idiom, but with moments
of shimmering beauty and an overall rhythmic energy which
is quite compulsive, there are all the ingredients one needs
to make an interesting piece all the more rewarding on repeated
hearing. There is something Bartók-like about some of the
gestures, and if you love that great Hungarian’s work you
will surely enjoy Ixxu.
is the Medicine I Need has texts taken from Benetton’s
‘Colors’ magazine (issue 47), which has a photo-reportage
of psychiatric hospitals from around the world. . Larcher
explains, “I fished out the sayings that were less explicit,
statements that any of us may have thought in one form or
another. I usually have a fairly hard time with lyric poetry.
The more polished and flawless the poem, the less room remains
for music. But here the words function like a magnet, pulling
the music into alignment.” Despite the subject matter there
is little of the alienation you might expect. There is a
little of Stravinsky in Eat and Sleep…and I don’t
know why I’m here… has an almost Pärt like simplicity
of line. Andrea Lauren Brown has quite an attractive and
light vocal sound - by which I don’t mean lightweight -
having plenty of dynamic impact where required and a remarkable
range to go with it.
is given an enigmatic programme note by Larcher, but the
association with desiccated remains is aptly represented
by stopped and damped piano strings with dry thumping and
harmonic rich percussive effects. “I write for ‘classical’
musicians who like being challenged”, Larcher says. In his
pieces, notions of virtuosity are pursued to the limits,
raising the expressive energy another notch in degree and
intensity. In Mumien this obsessive quality comes
through in the intense and rhythmically incessant second
movement, marked simply Schneller, while the final
langsam barely exists at all.
“was like stepping into the unknown and the threatening”
for the composer, but for the listener there are plenty
of accessible handles. There are some folk-like elements
in the violin, some Shostakovich-like moments of repose,
the stability of pedal notes and ostinati, sometimes transparently
expressive melodic lines, and all of the emotional swings
and roundabouts that you would want from a good string quartet.
There are no direct references to the title, so we are left
wondering as to its origins – maybe even left to invent
our own. “This was land occupied by the loneliest farm imaginable.
Eking a livelihood from ground by turns sodden with unyielding
clay, or arid and sandy shell-strewn grit, had never been
easy. The tradition here was one of pride in adversity,
and the cold farmer had given his whole life to a struggle
against the elements, the environment, and marginal returns
from an unsympathetic economy.” The music here is expressive
but uncompromising, filled with gritty passion and unfulfilled
preconceptions and expectations I have enjoyed this typically
well-recorded CD from ECM immensely, and recommend it wholeheartedly.
It’s the musical equivalent of a strong, black cup of coffee
– not something you want at all times of the day, but essential
to get you going when the need is there.