Sven Lyder KAHRS (b. 1959)
Dew Sparrows Breath: Wie eine Blume, von der ich Namen nicht weiss (1998) [6:59]; Und fernhin, ehe alles geschieht [20:23]; In Nomine - selbst den eigenen Namen wegzulassen [2:24]; Umile e tardo [8:14]; Wir nur ziehen allem vorbei, wie ein luftiger Auftauch [12:56]; Ici [4:24]; Mas tes désirs ont la couleur du vent [8:17]; Sparrows [7:19]
Pierre Strauch and Anton Lukoszevieze (cello), Ensemble Recherche, Duo Slaato Reinecke, Ensemble Ernst/Thomas Rimul, Dimitri Vassilakis (piano), asamisimasa
rec. 17 December 2005, Conservatoire Superior de Paris, 6-8 February 2008, Das Experimentalstudio des SWR, Freiburg, 4-5 December 2008, Conservatoire Maurice Ravel, Levallois-Perret, and 16 September, 21-22 December 2008, Rainbow Studio, Oslo. DDD
AURORA ACD5017 [71:03]

This is a well presented disc with brightly coloured artwork by Elisabet Norseng. The disc comprises a selection of works by the Norwegian composer Sven Lyder Kahrs. Kahrs studied with Finn Mortensen, Kolbjørn Ofstad, Brian Ferneyhough and Emmanuel Nunes. There is a sense of modernist pointillism within his compositional style.

The opening track Wie eine Blum, von der ich Namen nicht weiss (Like a flower, whose name I don’t know) is for solo cello, with melodic fragments and punchy gestures juxtaposed to create a dramatic mosaic of contemporary sounds. Und fernhin, ehe es alles geschieht (from afar, before it all takes place) uses an eight-piece ensemble. A wide range of timbral effects are created, through a combination of instruments - with the use of contemporary techniques - and live electronics. The approach to the electronic treatment is that the original source is always present with the processed sound, giving a good sense of unity and an organic feel to the live processing. The sounds are well integrated so the boundary between the live instrument and the processed electronics is not always clear. The music develops through its 20 minute duration to incorporate diverse textures and moods, and demonstrates Kahrs’ imagination for sound.

The short In Nomine is based Taverner’s 1524 mass and is scored for ensemble. The medieval material is transformed to the point of being largely unrecognizable, although the sense of something underpinning the work cannot be ignored. Umile e tardo (humble and withdrawn) is for violin and double bass, which feels as expansive in its scoring as some moments of Kahrs’ ensemble writing. The piece has two movements which are based on quotes from Petrarch, Dante and Foscolo. The sound quality of the recording is clear, to the extent that what sounds like the players’ breathing is also clearly audible, which I found distracting at times. The playing is convincing, however, and there is a good sense of ensemble in the duo.

Wir nur ziehenallem vorbei (we only pass everything by, like a change of air) has the concentrated feel of chamber music, with gentle ensemble sounds incorporating contemporary techniques such as air sounds, multiphonics and tongue stops punctuated by bursts of louder sounds. The pointillistic influence is clear here, with different timbral effects moving across the ensemble under more static sustained sounds. This is a thirteen minute work, and I found my attention beginning to wane around nine minutes in. The complexity of Kahrs’ compositional style is perhaps such that mental saturation can be reached while listening to a 70 minute CD in one sitting.

Ici, for solo piano, provides a welcome contrast, with individual accented notes and chords creating a sense of a multi-layered texture over quieter and more gentle sonorities. Dimitri Vassilakis performs with a sense of conviction and the strongest sense of emotion and phrasing of any of the performances on this disc. This gives a welcome human element to technically challenging repertoire. Mais tes désirs ont la couleur du vent (but your longings have the colour of the wind) is a duo for cellos. Here, Kahrs seeks to create a sense of imbalance between the two parts, building tensions between them and creating scope for an interesting musical dialogue.

Overall, this is a fascinating collection. Kahrs’ music might not to be to everyone’s taste, but his is an interesting modernist voice and the playing is excellent throughout. I have no doubt that the music will deliver on deeper levels at subsequent hearings, and the detail, particularly of timbre and orchestration, that exists within the writing is both striking and imaginative.

Carla Rees

A fascinating collection … a striking and imaginative modernist voice.