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Joachim BRÜGGE (b.1958)
Pieces for Strings (1987) [14:41]
Waltz for Strings (1998) [6:26]
B-A-C-H Variations (2012) [7:34]
Arrangements for Strings: Scarborough Fair (1986) [5:22]: (They Long To Be) Close To You [3:24]: Take Five [3:41]
Suite for Trio (2012) [12:38]
Prelude and Fugue about Brahms (1988 rev 1996) [4:25]
Salzburg Chamber Soloists/Lavard Skou-Larsen
rec. November 2013, Konzerhaus der Abtei Marienmünster

Joachim Brügge’s booklet biography is modest to the point of self-effacement - even his photograph takes up more space in the three-language documentation (English, German and French). Born in 1958, the German composer and musicologist studied in Lübeck and Göttingen and now works at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg. He seems to compose principally for chamber orchestral forces, of which this disc is an example.
There are six very brief movements in Pieces for Strings (1987), lissom, modal, amiable and fresh-faced examples with straightforward titles; ‘Like a Scherzo’ and ‘No Troubles in F’ have a certain down-to-earth, indeed disarming quality, rather like the music. Waltz for Strings (1998) is an easy listening experience though the three waltzes segue nicely into each other and don’t evoke or indeed invoke the Waltz King particularly.
Two of the pieces were composed very recently, in 2012. The B-A-C-H Variations is again stamped with no-nonsense titles much occupied by the concept of mood – Serious, Honest, Strange, Calm and Another Strange being the operative ones. No ‘Good’, oddly. I found the limited compass here somewhat devitalising and it’s hard to register much when the movements themselves are so short – mostly under 60 seconds. Invariably, perhaps, he ends the piece with a fugue.
The Suite for Trio is another piece from 2012 with its second movement a Bachian homage with Grieg smiling benignly in the central movement of five. A passage from the scherzo of Brahms’ Symphony No.3 emerges in the Prelude and Fugue about Brahms. Note the ‘about’; not ‘on’, though at only four minutes or so in length it doesn’t exactly hang about.
The three arrangements reveal another side of his compositional output. Scarborough Fair has a discursive introduction and some writing somewhat reminiscent of Copland, who also seems to haunt the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song Close To You which explores the higher and lower registers, epically of the fiddles and cellos. Take Five gets more of a smooth-over than a work-out in this arrangement and it sounds very decorous and airy.
The performances and recording are both sympathetic. Brügge’s music is likeable and, indeed, modest. I can’t imagine anyone, except the occasional Darmstadt refugee, actively disliking it.
Jonathan Woolf