Gary CARPENTER (b.
Ein Musikalisches Snookerspiel (1991)a [8:21]
Da Capo (1981)b [6:40]
Distanza (2004)b [11:02]
Van Assendelft’s Vermeer (2004)c [4:06]
After Braque (2006)b [12:48]
Die Flimmerkiste (1982)b [25:33]
(clavichord)c; Ensemble 10/10/Gary
Carpentera, Clark Rundellb
rec. Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 12 May 2007 (Ein Musikalisches
Snookerspiel) and 15 January 2007 (After Braque, Die
Flimmerkiste); Bushell Hall, Birkenhead, 20 October 2006
(Distanza, Da Capo) and Concert Room, Royal Academy
of Music, London, 15 December 2006 (Van Assendelft’s Vermeer) NMC D111 [69:30]
years ago, I heard a tape of Carpenter’s early orchestral
work Amethyst Deceiver (1982) and I immediately
felt that here was a composer whose music I would like to
hear more often. I had to wait until this disc was released.
works recorded here span some twenty years of his composing
career, from a fairly early work, Da Capo (1981)
to a quite recent one After Braque completed
in 2006. Through this disc his musical progress, both in its
diversity and its consistency, may be appreciated.
Capo is for six players (alto flute, English horn, bass clarinet, viola,
cello and piano) and is described by the composer as a
short Scherzo and Trio. The whole amounts to a lovely
work that never outstays its welcome.
1974 to 1976 Carpenter worked as a ballet repetiteur and conductor
in a minor opera house in Krefeld, Germany. “Die Flimmerkiste is
a diary of sorts, in which many of the people and events encountered
in Krefeld are remembered”. This work commissioned by Odaline
de la Martinez and Lontano is yet another suite laid-out in
three ‘volumes’: Volume 1 consists of twelve very short portraits
(played without a break), Volume 2 has just one longer movement
(although it too is made up of thirty-eight interlinked movements).
Volume 3 consists of seventeen short portraits (again played
without a break). These short portraits are in turn mildly
ironic and affectionate, but always with a pinch or three
of salt. The title refers to “a dodgy but characterful bar,
attached to a small fleapit cinema”.
Musikalisches Snookerspiel was
composed for a short series of concerts promoted by the
New Macnaghten Concerts entitled ‘Mozart to Post-Modernism’.
Three composers (Nicholas Maw, Colin Matthews and Gary
Carpenter) were requested to realise “Mozart’s proto-aleatory Ein
musikalisches Würfelspiel”. Carpenter’s work was
written in great haste, which – I must say – does not
show in the music. The work is scored for wind octet and
the music makes play with Mozart, the Mozart tune being
constantly put into unexpected and at times mildly dissonant
contexts. In his insert notes, the composer goes into
considerable detail as to how the music is based on modern
snooker; but – and it is a big but – I will not tell you
much about it myself since I never played snooker! Suffice
to say that this is a funny, well-made piece revealing
one of Carpenter’s musical hallmarks: humour.
striking contrast, Distanza for twenty-three
players is a rather more serious piece based on a chanson
by Jacques Arcadelt. The composer puts this through various
hoops, by turn serious, lively, rhythmically alert, sometimes
with a shade of Stravinsky. The title may be understood in
different ways: distance between the times of Arcadelt and
of Carpenter, distance achieved by the physical layout of
the ensemble and “the aesthetic distance between the religious
nature [of Arcadelt’s song] and [my] pervasive use of samba
rhythms and harmonic gestures”. The end result is a beautifully
made, attractive piece full of imagination and, for all its
sophistication, readily accessible.
Assendelft’s Vermeer is
a short piece for clavichord dedicated to Pamela Nash
who plays it here. The title apparently refers to a painting
by Vermeer A damsel playing on theclavichord mentioned
in an inventory of property belonging to the widow of
Nicholas Van Assendelft. The music never attempts description;
rather it is a study of the clavichord’s “small and evanescent
sound”. Unlike the other works recorded here, the music
is full of tiny sounds and many silences, in an almost
Braque, completed as recently
as 2006, apparently exists in different versions, including
this one for an ensemble of twenty players. It is cast
as a suite consisting of three movements separated by
two short interludes, the latter being instrumental versions
of solo songs from an continuing opera project. The music
does not directly evoke Braque’s work or any particular
painting of his, except that the titles of the two interludes
refer to two of his canvases. The most remarkable feature
is the richly rhythmic nature of the music, that again
may bring Stravinsky but also Jolivet to mind.
These attractive works are
superbly played by all concerned and the disc as a whole is
engaging from first to last, while the music succeeds in remaining
accessible for all its technical sophistication and its rhythmical
complexity. Judging by these works, Carpenter’s music is very
often quite earnest but leavened by a gleam of humour - undoubtedly
one of its most endearing qualities.
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