Nimrod BORENSTEIN (b. 1969)
Suspended opus 69 (2014) [40:37]
das freie orchester Berlin/Laércio Diniz
rec. 27-28 August 2015, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin

Putting a brand-new piece of music out as the premiere release on a brand-new record label is either daring or clever, depending on your point of view. This venture by recording producer Dirk Fischer is probably a bit of both. Avoiding areas of the record market that are already saturated is doubtless a good move, and in Nimrod Borenstein we have an in-demand composer whose music is likely to appeal to a wide audience. If you take a look at his online presence you will find out more about his background and numerous successes.

Suspended Opus 69 was conceived both as a score for a theatre show, Gandini Juggling’s 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures, as well as “a ballet that would not only provide for an inspiring basis for the choreography, but which would also work as a fully-fledged composition in its own right.” This recording is therefore the soundtrack to a sell-out tour, and this piece a significant addition to string orchestra repertoire.

The opening is very sparing, just the fundamental tone softly intoned by a pizzicato bass, and a descending scale a little in the manner of Arvo Pärt. This section was added at the request of the choreographer, and acts as a sort of prologue to the dance music ‘proper’. These movements have shapely rhythmic movement, but with their often elegiac feel and musical sophistication work well as a concert piece. Borenstein originally “had the idea that writing a ballet was similar to writing a suite…”, but in pushing the concept beyond, or arguably beyond the expectations of an ‘applied’ composition we are left with pure music – even if it is music that has been planned meticulously to suit the stage action.

There are some standard dance patterns that emerge, and there are titles such as Tango and the final track Tomorrow’s Waltz, but Borenstein manages to submerge stereotype into music that is eloquent and expressive. In his essay Mind in Motion: Ballet and the fragile Balance between Music and Dance Tobias Fischer points towards the 18th century influence of Louis XIV on the development of the form and the spread of its popularity, as well as significant music for ballet such as The Rite of Spring – all of which share a more lively existence in the concert hall or recordings than any expectation that they should be used for their original purpose. Time will tell if Suspended opus 69 will become a concert hall standard, but on this showing it has a fighting chance. In the sense that it has a not dissimilar feel to certain film soundtracks, it may well find itself being appropriated for such purposes, though there are no real ‘hook’ moments that make me think of potential TV theme tunes or advertising jingles. With the sense that we are contained within certain artistic boundaries there is an overall feel of control in this work which might have welcomed some further contrast somewhere in a moment or two of real abandon or some rough edges to highlight the qualities elsewhere. This is all very genteel, and that of course is very fine indeed. Clearly not demanded of the commission, there would arguably be advantage in having some kind of a breakdown or crisis, climactic or otherwise, to which could have been built and from which could have been retreated. The most extreme title is Annoyed and that’s as far as it goes, and probably as far as it needed to go – this is an observation rather than a criticism.

This release is something of a luxury article, as are all Solaire releases so far. The CD comes in a chunky box that also contains a substantial and glossy booklet with photos of the recording session, insightful essays, commentary and a fascinating interview with the composer. My only tip for the design department would be to put the entire catalogue number on the spine rather than the confident ‘1’ that has been printed. Having worked in record shops I know the state of wonder and crisis that can be induced amongst the minions if these kinds of details don’t match.

Sound quality for this production is of demonstration quality, with plenty of detail as well as a satisfying spaciousness and the best use of that gorgeous Jesus-Christus-Kirche acoustic. Short playing time is an artefact of such a single work release, but this is music of substance and character, and deserves to be heard.

Dominy Clements

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