The Rest is Silence - Music of Our Time
rec. various dates, locations not indicated.
WINTER & WINTER 910 226-2 [74:11]

I am an enthusiastic seeker of titles from the Winter & Winter label and picked this one out from our reviewers’ lists with hardly a second thought. I was therefore a little disappointed to find this is in fact a sampler disc, and the lesson has been learned. While much can be discovered with such releases there is also always the thought at the back of one’s mind that this is barely more than a snapshot of each composer. These are indeed teasers for further exploration, but the collection has been intelligently curated and produced. The text on the inside cover also provides insight into the concept of the album. Stefan Winter and Mariko Takahashi, recording in the Mexican countryside, found themselves at a remote farm. They gave the farmer a recording of Tanz-Schul by Mauricio Kagel by way of introduction, and the day after the farmer “talked enthusiastically about the music, sounds he had never heard before. He did not sleep all night as he could not stop listening again and again.” This is the contradiction between contemporary music being perceived as “too intellectual, inharmonious and unapproachable”, while the reality is that so many composers of our times are “a source of musical abundance.” If once you actually get to hear something new and unusual, then there is at least a chance you might be turned on to wider new music channels.

Such a lucky-dip selection is bound to mean one will favour certain tracks over others, but in this case we are also treated to an overview of the Winter & Winter ethos with regard to contemporary music. More familiar music sits cheek by jowl with new experiences, so we are treated to an excellently colourful performance of Arvo Pärt’s Trivium for organ by Lorenzo Ghielmi, and Luciano Berio’s exploratory Sequenza XIII from Teodoro Anzellotti’s accordion is also likely to be part of a more typical collection of modern music. Theatricality in music is a feature of the Winter & Winter ‘house style’, and Mauricio Kagel has also been well represented by the label, the extract from his Tantz-Schul having a dark Milhaud-meets-Expressionism feel, and Rrrrrr… Ragtime Waltz a surreal dance for accordion. Jazz musician Uri Caine has a track record of transforming Bach, Mahler, Liszt and the like into things strangely haunting and unexpected, and his Caprice 6 combines a gently romantic chorale like mood from the Arditti String Quartet, over which jazz piano lines flow as naturally as water through a stream.

Fumio Yasuda is described as Neo-Romantic in the brief notes inside the gatefold card pack for the disc, though while his ‘Heavenly Blue’ album is well represented with three tracks I can’t say I was wildly inspired by the meandering Accordion Concerto. Rain Chorale is an intriguing miniature but not something I would be desperate to cross a busy road for to hear again. Death Sentiment I is intense and dramatically atmospheric, but not particularly memorable to my ears. I don’t like to make short work of any composer, but if it doesn’t stick then it ain’t my pick.

We’re left with a movement from Hans Abrahamsen’s Piano Concerto, which opens with the quietest of piano solos and develops into a striking Gothic horror. The abstract atonal gestures of Stefano Gervasoni’s descdesaf played by L’Instant Donné are the most overtly avant-garde sounding of the pieces here, shaping sounds and silence with glissandi and a variety of other string noises. The programme concludes with Salvatore Sciarrino’s Storie di altre storie: Domenico Scarlatti Vivo L. 446 which has a rousing, celebratory feel in its ebullient orchestration of Scarlatti’s already extrovert keyboard work.

CD samplers used to pop up quite regularly, but with so much music available via online streaming they have given way to budget compilations of one kind or another so we can satiate our magpie instincts without fear of too much outlay. Winter & Winter is something of a special case when it comes to record labels, with their elaborate packaging and stylish presentation of a remarkable catalogue of fascinating and adventurous music. I wouldn’t normally go for this kind of product but if you are dipping your toes into the vast lake of contemporary music then this is a good place to try out some quality swimwear.

Dominy Clements
Track listing and performers
1. Death Sentiment I [Fumio Yasuda]
2. Caprice 6 [Uri Caine]
3. Tantz-Schul I: Entrée – Folie d’Espagne – Trionfo di Bacco – Il Dolzor [Mauricio Kagel]
4. Rain Choral [Fumio Yasuda]
5. Trivium [Arvo Pärt]
6. Concerto For Piano And Orchestra: Adagio, Innocente E Semplice [Hans Abrahamsen]
7. Rrrrrrr... Ragtime Waltz [Mauricio Kagel]
8. descdesesasf [Stefano Gervasoni]
9. Accordion Concerto: Lament in Close Distance [Fumio Yasuda]
10. Sequenza XIII [Luciano Berio]
11. Storie di altre storie: Vivo L. 446 (K. 262) [Salvatore Sciarrino after Domenico Scarlatti/harpsichord sonata, B major]
Arditti String Quartet
Teodoro Anzellotti [accordion]
Uri Caine [composer, piano]
Lorenzo Ghielmi [organ]
Tamara Stefanovich [piano]
Fumio Yasuda [composer, piano]
L'Instant Donné
European Art Ensemble
Kammerorchester Basel
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken
Bernd Ruf, Kazushi Ono, Mauricio Kagel, Jonathan Stockhammer [conductor]


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