Rytis MAŽULIS (b.1961)
Puja (2004) [11:48]
Musica Falsa (2006) [8:57]
Ex Una Voce Tres (2002) [6:13]
Schisma (2007) [28:47]
Belvedere (2010) [4:32]
Tranquility (1992) [9:13]
Manuel Zurria (flutes, *arrangements except Belvedere)
rec. Eremo di Monte Giove monastery, Urbino, Italy, September 2009 - March 2010. DDD
MEGADISC CLASSICS MDC 7794 [69:31]
A full-price disc of seventy minutes of processed flute music by a relatively unknown microtonalist/serialist composer from Lithuania whom the soloist himself describes as "super-minimalist". It’s not the most obvious combination to have music-lovers queuing around the block, credit card at the ready.
It was Sicilian flautist Manuel Zurria who actually had the idea for what Mažulis calls a "crazy and ambitious" project - to adapt some of Mažulis's works for his own instrument to make this recording. He describes the composer's music in the notes with untrammelled enthusiasm, though not necessarily in words that are bound to persuade anyone reading the blurb or a review of any urgent need to experience it: "like drowning without being in need of oxygen. Indefinable music: it has a mysterious and enigmatic quality [...] Utopian music projected to the future [...] Music of contradictions, therefore … and music of paradox."
Whilst the works were all recorded as per the details given above, this is as much a disc of high-tech studio music as acoustic, and would not be what it is without the mixing that took place in Vilnius once the recording was completed. Unfortunately, the liner-notes do not say to what degree the tracks have been digitally processed, nor do they always make clear how many flutes are involved in each work - though 14 in Schisma is the maximum.
Belvedere is the only original work for flute, composed by Mažulis for Zurria. All the others were written for different forces and arranged for this recording, apparently by Zurria himself. There are slow works and faster ones. All are performed by flutes using various acoustic and digital techniques. All depend on the relentless, slowly mutating repetition of minimalism for their effect. That effect may be either hypnotic or nauseating, depending. Those that enjoy this kind of thing will enjoy this disc. Those that cannot see the point or skill or imagination in it will not be converted by anything here, and will probably steer well clear of Mažulis's music in future.
Schisma above all - the "central composition of the album", in Mažulis's words - at nearly half an hour in length, will surely polarise opinion: is this a massively self-indulgent, interminable and utterly pointless drone, or is it in fact a haunting, complex, visionary work of considerable intensity and depth? It is difficult in any case not to be in awe of its sheer scale.
Despite the fact that it is impossible to tell just how much is Zurria and how much engineer/producer, it is nevertheless clear that Zurria has brought immense discipline to the recording of this music. His commitment to it cannot fail to impress. His English, on the other hand, can be as puzzling as Mažulis's music to the uninitiated: "The shifting poly-metrics of some fractional metronomic measures relate to Karlheinz Stockhausen's radicalism, to his hyper-rational decimal tempo points for which astonished the performers as it is a rather absolute required severity."
Sound quality is generally good, although the flutes are a little strident in the louder works, and the original recording of Tranquility and Schisma in Italy was not done in a soundproof building, and traffic noise therefore plays a quiet but significant role, particularly in the relative calm of the former.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
The relentless, slowly mutating repetition of minimalism.