The young Norwegian
clarinettist Rolf Borch (b. 1975) has
a strong commitment to contemporary
music and the present set is a fine
example of this. The music shows a new
approach to the many timbres of the
clarinet - the so-called 'inside'. Borch
also uses the 'outside' of the instrument
to explore new variations of timbre.
On listening to the music on these CDs
one is amazed at what a contemporary
clarinettist is capable of!!
In Mark Adderley's
"Drawings 1" the clarinet represents
a pen. Adderley says 'this piece can
be seen as a collection of animated
sketches or line drawings which are
described by the clarinet'. The music
is very free and improvisatory and shows
off Borch's vast technique. There are
examples of flutter-tonguing, glissandos
and a jazzy vibrato, which is used as
a contrast to the very pure tone Borch
usually produces. The pen travels high
and low within the sound-world and this
puts enormous technical demands on the
player's embouchure. The 'outside' of
the clarinet is used to tremendous effect
in the breathy sounds where Borch doesn't
use the mouthpiece but uses the clattering
of the keywork for effect. There are
also incredible harmonics and strong
dynamic contrasts. Towards the end of
the piece there is a hint of a tune,
which 'carries with it the memory of
foregone lines, motifs and curves'.
In Sven Lyder Kahrs's
piece "Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern"
the composer has borrowed the title
from J.S. Bach's chorale BWV436. Although
the tune of the chorale is unrecognisable,
Kahrs says that the music pays tribute
to the master in describing the beautifully
radiant morning star and the listener
must 'visualize a qualitative state'.
This is conjured by the recurring ascending
motif which perhaps represents the morning
star rising. Despite the overall feeling
of calm, there are disturbing interruptions
where Borch uses similar techniques
to the first piece. There is a lot of
bending of the notes and quarter-tonal
and semi-tonal pitch changes which are
produced by very subtle movement of
the fingers. As well as flutter-tonguing,
Borch also uses slap-tonguing. Harmonics
are used to great effect with sometimes
three or four notes being produced at
once. Again Borch uses no vibrato and
this produces a very pure, calm tone.
The 'outside' of the clarinet is explored
with side keys being hit to produce
a percussive effect.
"Dal Niente" by Helmut
Lachenmann means 'from nothing' and
is a musical term referring to a crescendo
which grows out of nothing, or silence.
The music alternates between the audible
and the barely audible, and the sound-world
emerges from the 'inside' of the clarinet
beyond traditional techniques. Indeed
this piece relies more on the unconventional
sounds rather than the conventional
ones. Borch plays long passages without
actually blowing the clarinet at all!
Keys are rattled and holes are kissed!
"Dal Niente" is today recognised as
a classic in its sensitive exploration
of the clarinet's inner qualities and
potential. Borch masters it very well
"Capriccio, detta l'ermafrodita"
by Claudio Ambrosini literally means
the hermaphrodite, a double gender creature.
This piece is written for bass clarinet.
With its long tube and wide range of
notes, the bass clarinet can produce
many different timbres. This is a brilliantly
clever work and superbly performed by
Borch. The piece opens with more slap-tonguing
and squeaks, with low notes so quiet
that one can hear the percussive effects
used by the fingers moving. As a contrast
there is then a high trembling voice
accompanied by a low, sonorous sound
that represents the double gender of
the hermaphrodite. Harmonics are used
to great effect with several high notes
being heard above the audible bass note.
The whole piece is very percussive and
at times the bass clarinet can sound
like a synthesizer, particularly in
the glissando passages.
"Par IV" by Magne Hegdal
is divided into two contrasting sections.
It is played entirely conventionally
in that the whole piece involves blowing
down the clarinet and moving the fingers
in the usual way, with no 'inside' or
'outside' percussive effects. The first
part "Aleatory" refers to the trend
in music, in which some elements of
the composition are left to chance and
Borch has to interpret the music. It
is dominated by fast, rhythmical, mechanical
passages. As a contrast the second "Paysage"
or landscape, is calm, inward and very
intense. Borch plays it without any
expression whatsoever, which is what
Hegdal intended, but his tone is pure
with no vibrato.
In "Sotto Voce" by
Eivind Buene, the clarinettist explores
the relationship between ordinary notes
and quarter-tones. Sotto voce means
playing in a hushed tone and this applies
to the whole piece. Again, it is played
in the conventional way, with slap-tonguing
interspersed with harmonics and the
occasional blowing across the tone holes.
Tension is created between the outward
and the inward movement that alternates
between moving forwards and in circles.
The 'snake charmer' melody acts as a
gravitational pull for the whole piece.
Gradually the rhythmic motifs become
more extrovert, driving the music to
extremes between high and low notes,
dynamics, percussive noises and conventional
notes. Eventually the melody disappears
and these other forces take over leaving
fragments of sound.
The final track is
"+R" by Roger Redgate and is probably
the best piece on the album for displaying
Borch’s phenomenal technique. Redgate,
despite being American, is part of the
British "New Complexity" school of composers.
This consists of high-energy music which
is very complex, moving beyond mere
virtuosity, and makes severe technical
demands on the player. This includes
complicated rhythms and rapid passagework,
extremes of register and the use of
quartertones. At the same time the music
is very expressive.
This is not a pretty
CD to listen to but it is a very clever
one. Borch’s virtuosity is astonishing
and his performances must be a delight
to watch. A must for contemporary clarinettists.
Not a pretty CD to listen to certainly
a very clever one. Borch’s virtuosity
is astonishing and his performances
must be a delight to watch. A must for
contemporary clarinettists. … see Full