The inaugural recording by the Louth Contemporary Music Society
offers religious minimalism in a range of flavours. It’s essentially
an ambient album, subdued chamber music recorded in the warm acoustic
of a large church, but the choice of works and composers makes
for a varied programme.
Knaifel and Valentin Silvestrov make the most interesting
contributions. Both composers include a point of aural focus
in each of their musical textures, creating a sense of inner
purpose and balancing the prevailing sense of ambience. Knaifel’s
O Heavenly King is scored for soprano and string quartet,
but with an intermittent obbligato shared between piano and
celesta giving a percussive foil to the otherwise sustained
textures. Silvestrov creates a similar sense of inner contrast
in his textures through the clear profile of his melodies,
standing apart and leading the ear. In Ikon the melody
derives (or so it seems) from Orthodox chant, and in 25.X.1893.
P. I. Tchaikovsky No. 2 – Lullaby the melody is borrowed
Tavener and Arvo Pärt are presented in a more strictly ambient
mode. Tavener’s Ikon of Joy and Sorrow and Pärt’s Da
Pacem Domine are both slow, quiet works for string quartet
with homogenous religioso textures throughout. Hymn
to a Great City is Arvo Pärt’s homage to New York. It is a piano duet work with a simple
chordal theme underpinned by repeated A flats and decorated
by the occasional arpeggio flourish at the top of the keyboard.
Frustratingly monotonous but mercifully short.
Górecki could be considered a minimalist, even a religious
minimalist, but not in the sense that unites Tavener, Pärt,
Silvestrov and Knaifel. His Third Symphony has associated
his name with the religious and ambient tendencies in Eastern
European music, but the work presented here, Good Night,
is in a more uncompromising vein. There are echoes of the
Third Symphony, especially from the soprano in the third movement,
but in general this is music based on a sterner aesthetic
philosophy. It is a long work (around half an hour) and is
based on rigorously applied principles of thematic and textural
development, or at least metamorphosis. The textures remain
subdued throughout, yet it is an intense listening experience,
and the preceding works seem somewhat trivial by comparison.
disc concludes with In a Landscape, a solo piano work
written by John Cage in 1948. Music from a different time,
then, and from a different continent. Nevertheless, it fits
comfortably into this programme, and serves to demonstrate
the immense significance John Cage and his music had for European
music in the second half of the 20th century.
performances are of a consistently high standard, and a special
mention should be made of the ensemble’s guest star, the soprano
Patricia Rozario, although her two short appearances are all
too brief. Good recorded sound too, although the church acoustic
is perhaps a little overly resonant, even for that ‘ambient’
sound. The halo around the solo piano in this environment
is strikingly similar to that of many of the ECM recordings
of works by some of these composers. The economic success
and iconic status of those recordings would be a laudable
goal for this and future recording projects from the contemporary
music enthusiasts of Louth.
by Rob Barnett