Alejandro RUTTY (b. 1967)
1. The conscious sleepwalker (2007) [14:03]
2. A future of tango (2010) [18:05]
3. Hyperlinks from Tango loops 2 (2005) [2:13]
4. Hyperlinks from Tango loops 1 (2008) [6:13]
5. Tango loops 1 (2003) [8:36]
6. Tango loops 2C (2005) [10:35]
Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Petr Vronsky (1); 4mil Saxophone Quartet (2); Mayan City Sinfonietta/Alejandro Rutty (2, 5); Red Clay Saxophone Quartet (3, 4); 5Kiev Philharmonic/Robert Ian Winstin (6)
rec. Olomouc, 22 March 2011; University of North Carolina, October 2010; University of North Carolina, 2011; University of North Carolina, 2006; 5ERM Media, 2005
NAVONA RECORDS NV 5870 [59:45]
This disc forms a kind of retrospective of the career of the composer Alejandro Rutty over the past ten years. Before I consider the disc itself I feel it essential to raise a serious complaint about its presentation. There is no booklet, and no notes on the music whatsoever are provided with the CD. Instead one has to place the CD into a computer and then view the booklet online - or print off one’s own copy a page at a time in a very user-unfriendly format - which is useless for anyone who prefers, as I do, to listen in comfort on a sound system in the lounge rather than at a computer which quite possibly may have an inferior audio output. This is quite unacceptable even in the day and age when all homes will probably have a computer. The booklet can be viewed on the computer even if it cannot be easily printed off for listening elsewhere. It is already bad enough where companies fail to provide texts or translations with issues which have to be downloaded from a website and then printed off (at the purchaser’s expense - and this booklet is very print and colour heavy) before the listener can sit down to enjoy the music. It is even more intolerable when the purchaser has no alternative but to sit at the computer screen throughout while listening to the CD. This precedent cannot be too uncompromisingly condemned and must militate against any recommendation for this disc.
The sole advantage of the procedure is that the composer has also provided scores of some of the music, which is of assistance to the musically-informed reviewer coming to terms with totally unfamiliar scores. These again have to be viewed online - unless the purchaser is willing to pay to print out the substantial files - and the type online is unacceptably small for any detailed study. Then in order to hear the music itself I had to rip the audio files to my computer (which took time), as opening up the CD on the computer produced an uncredited loop of The conscious sleepwalker - which is not the first on the CD. This had to be turned off before one could proceed. There may have been an easier way of doing this, but this is not a considerate way to treat the listener.
As will be seen from the titles, Rutty - who was born in Argentina before moving to America in the 1990s - is heavily influenced by the tangos of his native land. A future of tango envisages futuristic tangos from 2045, 2098 and 2145. The first is a rollicking ‘mind transfer tango’ which pushes the quartet of saxophonists to the uppermost limits of their ranges. The tenor sax sounds particularly uncomfortable around 4:00. It subjects the tango to all sorts of orchestral overlays. The second ‘wartime tango’ is a luxuriant slow blues-like number which features each of the soloists in turn. The final movement is a milonga subtitled “I’m a Martian Transfobeat” which features some spectacular note-bending from the alto sax and a delightfully sleazy melody which first occurs around 3:00 and then returns at around 4:00.
The track The conscious sleepwalker gives its title to the overall album. This hyperactive piece (which runs to 125 pages of full score) is a real tour de force both for the players and the composer. It contains an “untrue flamenco, a somewhat truer Argentinian tango, and multiple sounds and procedures typical of digitally processed music”, according to the composer in his booklet note. This somewhat academic description belies a piece of great energy and occasionally unexpected delicacy. Again one notes the composer’s tendency to tax his woodwind players with writing in the extreme high register but the players take these well in their stride.
The other works on this disc are written for various smaller groups, from saxophone quartet to a large chamber orchestra of eighteen players. This Tango Loops 2C is a version of a full orchestral score. No scores are provided for these tracks. The two saxophone quartets are also heavily tango-influenced, and the recorded acoustic here is very much closer than in the orchestral pieces. This enables one to appreciate the details of the writing the better. The two Tango Loops pieces are less approachable than the rest of the music on this disc. Here the tango rhythms are very fragmented, and the parodic elements less fully absorbed into the whole. The effect of the multi-layering is not fully integrated as it is in the other works on the disc, and the results sound rather Ivesian in idiom if not in feeling. It should be noted that despite the credits given for full orchestra, these are indeed performances by various groups of chamber instrumentalists.
The playing of the various forces involved is absolutely flawless even in the most energetic passages, and they convey the proper sense of fun in the music. If the presentation of this disc was better organised, it would merit a high recommendation; but given my strictures at the beginning of this review, the CD must be approached by prospective purchasers with a degree of caution and a willingness to spend some time and expense accessing the various features of the disc.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
Playing absolutely flawless and a proper sense of fun.