Here’s an enjoyable, out of the ordinary CD. An Ockeghem Mass
played by a woodwind trio and a Tallis keyboard piece played by
the same trio (with the addition of a cimbalom) are not things
one encounters every day of the week (or, indeed every month of
the year). Here they frame pieces by two contemporary Hungarian
composers, the whole making an engaging and stimulating programme.
Of the two modern
works, Serei’s Dream Drawings is the most interesting.
It has an apt sense of being an indirect descendant of some
of Bartok’s night music, though the representation of the
sounds of nature is largely absent here, being replaced by
a tracing of mental movements, of impulses and retreats, gestures
and moments of stability. The whole has an air of dream, of
shadows of completeness, of the interplay of emotions and
memories, as a solo clarinet occupies the foreground for much
of the piece’s length, before receding into the distance.
The bassoon grows increasingly important and at the end of
the work, after all the flurries of movement, all the passages
of dialogue (and trialogue) there is a sense of unity and
repose. Sári’s Trialog is an altogether less fluid
piece, more solid in its masses, clearer in its construction.
It is in three clearly distinguished parts, the innermost
of these “acting almost as a slow movement”, in the composer’s
own words, contrasting with the more rhythmically complex
outer sections, the second of which recapitulates some of
the material from the first. Trialog has a pleasing
sense of momentum and a fair bit of humour in the way it exploits
the textural possibilities of the trio.
Being a mass in
three voice’s Ockeghem’s Missa sine nomine lends itself
fairly readily to Trio Lignum’s instrumental interpretation.
András Wilheim’s booklet notes insist that “the interpretation
played here is not a transcription. Every note is the
equivalent of a note in the original; there are no changes,
interventions, cuts or substitutions”. Listening to it is
fascinating, if not completely satisfying. Certainly it makes
one concentrate on Ockeghem’s notes, stripped of their text
as they are. And the resulting music is full of striking lines
and gratifying harmonies. But quite how one should
be listening becomes a distraction, I found. Should I listen
to the second movement of this performance conscious that
it is a Gloria or to the fifth taking account of the
fact that it is the Agnus Dei? Should I have the text
and significance of the music in mind, even though the text
is absent? In any case, I suspect that only a listener who
had no knowledge of what a Mass is, or of this music’s connection
with the Mass, would find it altogether possible to listen
to the interpretation by Trio Legnum - beautiful as much
of it is – without finding something distractingly odd about
it, without being as aware of what they were not hearing as
of what they were hearing.
No such problems
with the gracious version of Tallis’s Felix namque,
in which Ildikó Vékony adds her cimbalom to the sound of Trio
Lignum in a performance of Tallis’s variations, a performance
delicate and full of joy, a performance to which I have returned
repeatedly since I first heard the disc. It might give some
authenticists a bit of a nightmare, but I suspect that Tallis
himself would have loved it! By combining the sustained notes
of the wind instruments and the percussive sound of the cimbalom,
arranger Ádám Kondor produces a gorgeous sound-world which
articulates Tallis’s music quite delightfully. Felix namque
makes an upbeat conclusion to a very individual programme.