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London New Voices
Nicola MORO (b.1972)
for eleven players [10.19]
Kim ASHTON (b.1962)
for eleven players [11.56]
Paul EVERNDEN (b.1983)
Beata Luna
for ten players [9.29]
Matias Hancke DE LA FUENTE
Deshielo/Laissez Vibrer
Leonardo MARGUTTI (b.1978)
Of Instance and Memory
for eleven players (13.02]
Lontano/Odaline de la Martinez
rec. King’s College, London, 20 March 2012
LORELT LNT137 [60.06]

Cuban-born Odaline de la Martinez and her ensemble Lontano, founded as long ago as 1976, are no strangers to contemporary music. They have spent much time in promoting and exploring works by little-known composers from the UK and scattered throughout the globe. This CD demonstrates their typical work. It also adds a further layer in that all five composers have been students at King’s College London under the guidance of Silvina Milstein and have worked with George Benjamin and others.

The first piece makes a fascinating start. Chiaroscuro, which the composer explains is the play of light and shadow, is a richly colourful work, which winds down to a glittering yet faltering set of final gestures. Nicola Moro’s name might be known to you as one of brains behind NMC Records, promoting the work of other, mostly young contemporary composers. Moro set himself some rules to structure the work – the composer’s workshop is therefore evident. There has to be a musically significant event every minute — I’m not sure if this was really achieved. Only twelve chords are used, giving the harmony a static feel and ‘transitions from one sonority to another are to be smooth’. It's very much a success. The performance brings out the finest in the music as does the recording.

It was apt that I got up at 6.30am unable to sleep and put on Kim Ashton’s Axial. As I studied our woodland garden and the early sunlight his soundscape floated across my consciousness. On reading his liner-notes I found that he refers to his inspiration as ‘spring, dawn, flutterings, hare”. The music as he says “plays between stasis and dynamism” - at times ethereal; at times calm. The other inspiration is the poetry of Elisabeth Bletsoe who, living in rural Dorset, is also inspired by landscape. The composer’s words above are also reminiscent of her use of single words to make up syntactical sentences. It's a fascinating work to which I might often return.

Paul Evernden's music has been performed in France, Greece and Spain. He was a pupil of David Sawer and Simon Bainbridge. His Beata Luna uses a plainchant melody ‘Beatus Hugo piscator dei’ and exemplifies his use of quartertones with more traditional melodic and rhythmic processes. He is not concerned with a developmental process; the sound-world of the opening is retained with only its kaleidoscopic colours and some dynamic variety to lead the ear forward. It is static and meditative and often luminous. Its length is just about right but its basic material is amorphous. Ultimately the impression created is somewhat uninvolving.

An ex-pupil of mine, a composer now in her early forties listened with me to some of the tracks on this disc. Her description of much of the music was “typical university-composer conceptions” and I know what she means. I think that Deshielo/Laissez Vibrer by the Argentinean Matias Hancke de la Fuente may well be a good example of what my friend meant. It seems to be typical of the composer who writes that he attempts in this piece on “convergence of instrumental … computer music, computer assisted compositions and improvisation”. The rest of his comments seemed to us ‘gobbledegook’ and the piece had very little to get a handle on. We were glad that it proved to be the shortest piece on the disc.

The problem for many composers of combining the ‘ethnic’ music of their country with that of the western tradition is met head-on by the Brazilian Leonardo Margutti in his Of Instance and Memory. The traditional dance of his country is a samba which dance he builds into his post-modern serial music in a brilliant way. The work falls into five sections but covers just three tracks, that is ‘First Instance’ which is freely post-tonal leading into a more classically formulated ‘Theme, Variations and Fugue’. The next track is a beautifully mysterious ‘Second Instance’ featuring the harp and then the last track begins with ‘Fragments’ leading into ‘Final Instance’ in which the samba and various jazz elements are metamorphosed with an overall final sense of modality. This makes for a very attractive format resulting in a most satisfactory composition.

The CD is nicely presented with photos and biographies of the composers, plus a brief note by each on their work and biographies of Lontano and its ubiquitous conductor. There is also an anonymous introductory essay.

Gary Higginson



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