Santiago SANTERO (b. 1962)
Sarabanda (2010) [11:49]
Diderik WAGENAAR (b.1946)
…e mi sovvien… (2012-13) [9:10]
Ezequiel MENALLED (b. 1980)
The inner sounds of my mind (2013) [14:06]
Gilius van BERGEIJK (b. 1946)
Landschap met rode wolk (2012) [8:06]
Claudio F. BARONI (b. 1965)
For 62 I (2011) [6:22]
For 62 II (2011) [7:53]
Gonzalo GIMINEZ (b. 1979)
Linarias (2013) [8:49]
rec. dates and location not given
ATTACCA ATT2015144 [67:02]
I’ve known the ten performing members and conductor Ezequiel Menalled of Ensemble Modelo62 since before they formed, and watched their progress from being new students at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague to the point at which their ensemble has become a highly professional unit, including being part of the Composition Department’s curriculum of projects; used for master-classes in creating and performing new work. I also know a few of the composers, having had lessons in electronic composing from Gilius van Bergeijk back in the days that we all still used big reels of tape. Diderik Wagenaar is also a familiar and highly respected figure at the Royal Conservatoire. In other words, I declare an interest in this debut CD, and so now you can all watch me squirm and see how I try to escape moaning about anything I don’t like without losing any friends.
This programme came about after Modelo62’s tour to Argentina in 2013, and alongside the Dutch composers the remainder have their origins in Buenos Aires. Santiago Santero’s Sarabanda is a slow dance indeed, with magical opening bars, the notes of the instruments resonating on through bowed tuned percussion. Restricted choices of pitches unfold in the mid-to upper registers of the ensemble, emphasising a feeling of slow descent. As the music develops so for a time does its intensity, a long loop taking us to a clearly defined and darker second section that climbs out of a dark hole as much as the first flew through purer skies. This is softly dramatic stuff and full of a potent charge that never quite explodes, keeping us all guessing but rewarding us with subtly shaped air and an enigmatic beauty.
…e mi sovvien… by Diderik Wagenaar opens with a characteristically nervy touch, tonal colours intensified through moments of unison with different instruments, and playing with swift actions over slower harmonic rhythm. Wagenaar’s music is immediately satisfying for these reasons and more. We can follow what’s going on and relish the sonic pallet, but know there is more going on underneath, our intellects always being teased. There are touches with a distinctly French flavour, and we’ve come a very long way since the days of ‘Dutch minimalism’ with which you may associate Wagenaar’s name.
Some of the musicians of Modelo62 are also composers, and conductor Ezequiel Menalled is a distinctive creative voice in his own right. He considers The inner sounds of my mind to be a new departure in his output. The piece develops out of a single tonal centre, the line varying in colour, and the ensemble punctuating its presence with sparing and often unconventionally performed notes. He writes that “there is no pre-established linear narrative… the unity of the work is created by constant changes of perspective, as if looking through a simple and crystalline kaleidoscope.” If the title were to be taken literally this might give rise to concern amongst the brain doctors, but of course all composition has something to do with the inner sounds of the mind – it is the mind that seeks and interprets all our experiences, and in this case the experience is a little like a radio signal that drops a surprising range of timbres and intriguing effects into our own consciousness. I particularly like the final minutes, which are taken up with a static field of fascinating sound.
You can look up Landschap met Rode Wolk online, and will find that it is a striking painting by Piet Mondriaan, he of the straight lines and primary colours in De Stijl. The red cloud that defines this painting “inspired him to compose non-tonal ‘blots’ in a naked, beautiful environment of tonal material.” Van Bergeijk’s work has often involved putting disparate ideas together in the same place, both musically and conceptually. The combination here is of a quietly suggestive, almost Satie-like but fragmentary accompaniment with stray abstract motiefs that coalesce after a fairly brief energetic middle section into a final section or coda of almost naïve simplicity.
Claudio F Baroni is another former student at the Royal Conservatoire, his For 62 I & II part of his exploration into depth of sound based on the ideas of Giacinto Scelsi. This “acoustic investigation” here results in a stretching of sounds based on the complex pitch components of percussion instruments – a kind of sonic minimalism, each piece more or less a single note around the artefacts of which form the rest of the material. This might sound unpromising, but the effect is strongly atmospheric, the duration and slow unfolding of each phenomenon ensuring that it will stick in your mind and make you strangely alert to far-off sounds. I’m not so sure about the screaming finale of For 62 II which seems like the over-working of a strong idea into something supposed to have Mahlerian emotive power, but there you go.
Linarias by Gonzalo Giménez comes with a poem describing the nature of the composition, the essence of which being “a wild plant struggling to survive in the fissure of a ruined wall.” Guiding the listener towards specific references can be a mixed blessing, but with Linaria being the name of the plant in question in this case there’s no escape. With quarter-tone dissonances and either fairly resolute atonality or well-concealed tonality, this is one of the most typically avant-garde sounding of the works in this programme, but there are plenty of things going on here which make one sit up and take notice. The occasional jazz-like sonority or gesture, a strangely organic feel reminding us of an anthropological/poetic take on the persistence of nature and moments such as that lonely trumpet towards the end: these are all qualities that impose themselves on even the most reluctant of imaginations.
Well recorded, superbly performed and with full documentation in a booklet with texts in both English and Dutch, this is a very fine release indeed and is a shot in the arm for new music, something small-scale but which punches above its weight in every regard. Each work was written specifically for the ensemble, and represents only a part of their artistic projects between 2010 and 2013. I somehow knew I wouldn’t need to pretend to like this release and these guys and gals have more than somewhat proved me right. More please.