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Rolf BORCH - Step Inside
Contemporary Music for Solo Clarinet
Mark ADDERLEY (b.1960)

Drawings 1 [10.38]
Sven Lyder KAHRS (b.1959)

Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern [13.28]
Helmut LACHENMANN (b.1935)

Dal Niente (Interieur III) [14.19]
Claudio AMBROSINI (b.1948)

Capriccio, detta l'ermafrodita [10.59]
Magne HEGDAL (b.1948)

Par IV [12.25]
1 Aleatory Construction [4.37]
2 Paysage [7.42]
Eivind BUENE (b.1973)

Sotto Voce [10.04]
Roger REDGATE (b.1958)

+R [10.40]
Rolf Borch (clarinet)
rec. 16-18 August, 28-30 November 2006, Jar church, Baerum, Norway.
AURORA - ACD 5046 [40:24 + 33:09]

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 here.

"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.

Lynda Baker
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 Review




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