Gheorghi ARNAOUDOV (b.1957)
Thyepolia for tenor recorder, cello and khandjari (Tibetan drum with small bells) (1997) [6:56]
Benedikta Bonitz (tenor recorder), Christo Tanev (cello), Stoyan Pavlov (khandjari)
Pawel SZYMAŃSKI (b.1954)
Two Studies (1986) [11:25]
Angela Tosheva (piano)
Walter STEFFENS (b.1934)
Ecstasy op.2b for string quartet (1963)
The Panorma Quartet: Hansjuergen Froetel (violin), Laurentius Bonitz (violin), Tor Røynesdal (viola), Richard N. Eade (cello)
Arvo PÄRT (b.1935)
Arbos for 7 recorders and 3 triangles ad lib. (1977) [6:38]
Benedikta Bonitz (recorders), Stoyan Pavlov (triangles)
Yannis XENAKIS (1922-2001)
Evryali (1973)
Angela Tosheva (piano)
Four Watercolours after Paul Klee: Musician, for tenor recorder; Ballet Scene, for alto recorder; Small Landscape in a Rainy Mood, for tenor recorder; A Musician Warms Up, for sopranino recorder op.63 (1991) [10:16]
Benedikta Bonitz (recorders)
Georgi MINCHEV (b.1939)
Sonograms (1980) [16:55]
Angela Tosheva (piano)
Pari Intervallo (1980) [3:55]
Benedikta Bonitz (recorders), Ventzislav Kindalov (bass recorder)
rec. Salle Bulgaria, Sofia, Bulgaria, 1996 (Tosheva) and 1997 (Bonitz); 1974, Hamburg, Germany (Ecstasy)
LABOR RECORDS LAB 7090 [78:11]
This CD takes its title from a work by Bulgarian composer Georgi Minchev whose Sonograms attempts to reverse the process of representing in a universally recognisable format those sounds that do not usually occur in a way that can be put into traditional musical notation. Since I am but a mere listener I can’t appreciate the technical nature of such a process but that doesn’t prevent me appreciating what comes out of it. According to the booklet notes the other works have been collected together for this disc because there is a degree of freedom on the part of the performer to interpret them. The music is all from the past fifty years and the majority is dominated by music using recorders as the main instrument which is one all too infrequently heard in such a role.
The disc opens with another work by a Bulgarian composer, Gheorghi Arnaoudov whose Thyepolia takes its inspiration from the Orphic rites of the ancient Greeks. It is scored for tenor recorder and khandjari, a tambourine-like instrument from Tibet with a cello acting like a drone. The whole effect is quite magical with the recorder sounding like an ethereal breath of wind evoking a feeling of peace that is wonderfully relaxing and making it the perfect music to chill out to after a hard day.
Pawel Szymański’s Two Studies for piano are fascinating for their juxtaposing of classical style of writing with the harsher sounds that come from a modernist approach in which keys appear to be being hit at random though there is nothing random about it at all. The first is full of abrupt sounds while the second is so wonderfully delicate each note sounds like one imagines a raindrop would sound if translated into music but it ends in a flurry of modernist notes to remind us of the framework that encompasses the two pieces.
Walter Steffens’ string quartet entitled Ecstasy from 1963 is the earliest written piece on the disc and it employs the idea of the players having a certain degree of freedom in how the work is performed. The writing is refreshingly spare and spiky rhythms abound.
With the use of overdubbing no less than seven recorder lines are employed in Arvo Pärt’s Arbos together with three triangles. Who other than Pärt would come up with what at first may seem such an unlikely combination and make it such a beautifully mellifluous piece that one is loath to hear the end of? His creation of music inspired by tintinnabulation continues to fascinate and enthral and this piece is no exception with its otherworldly beauty.
Yannis Xenakis was always a composer whose music I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to. Perhaps his Evryali is the exception that proves the rule and if not I need to explore more of his works. Reading the booklet notes will explain how this work was informed by his training as an architect and that he told Marie-Françoise Bucquet for whom he wrote it “... if you think you can do something with it, play it.” It also explains that any pianist brave enough to take it on must create their own performing version so that the underlying theme of freedom of expression on behalf of the performer is also in evidence here. I very much enjoyed it, a fact which has both surprised and delighted me.
Walter Steffens’ second work on the disc is quite different from the first and though it was written almost thirty years after the quartet this set of Four Watercolours after Paul Klee for solo recorders (tenor, alto and sopranino) are absolutely gorgeous little gems and a far cry from the modern nature of the earlier work. The booklet reproduces the paintings that inspired the set.
Georgi Minchev’s Sonograms from which the disc takes its title are interestingly subtitled Five Concerto Reminiscences for Piano which may refer to his piano concerto, a work that first brought him to prominence. A composer whose teachers included Khachaturian, Rodion Shchedrin and Messiaen, Minchev clearly enjoys the concept of allowing performers a certain flexibility of expression. That is well in evidence here in a work that exchanges traditional musical notation for graphics resulting in an improvisatory performance that will be different each time it is played.
The final work on the disc is another one by Pärt. This calls for the overdubbing of three recorders played by Benedikta Bonitz, the soloist on the other works joined by bass recorder player Ventzislav Kindalov. I’m a great admirer of Pärt who I was privileged to meet one year when he attended the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. His musical voice is quite unique and the calm his music exudes is a brilliant antidote to the frantically hectic materialist nature of our lives today and is to be treasured. This work is no exception with a melodiousness that hovers in the air in an almost mystical way. It often made me think of plainchant from centuries past lending it the characteristically timeless quality of Pärt’s music. The booklet notes make an interesting point that if Xenakis’ music is mathematically complicated then Pärt’s is simplicity itself. In fact the composer is quoted as saying that in his music “1+1=1”; that is maths I can both understand and relate to!
This disc is a great introduction to the music of this group of composers, several of whom are likely to be unknown to most listeners. All but one of the tracks are first recordings. It’s well worth checking out and anyone interested in contemporary music will find much to enjoy while those who are new to it need not be afraid since there is nothing ‘off the wall’ here. The musicians are excellent and Benedikta Bonitz deserves special mention as a recorder player who is worthy of comparison with the great Frans Brüggen and the wonderful Michaela Petri. Pianist Angela Tosheva also merits considerable praise for the tour de force she demonstrates in tackling the Szymański, Xenakis and Minchev none of which gives a pianist an easy ride.
Steve Arloff 

Anyone interested in contemporary music will find much to enjoy here. 

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