Ole BUCK (b. 1945)
Sinfonietta Works
Fiori di ghiaccio (for 9 instruments) (1999) [13.32]
A Tree (for 13 instruments) (1996) [14.17]
[Untitled] (for 8 instruments) (2010) [9.28]
Flower Ornament Music (for 17 instruments) (2001) [22.03]
Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen/Jesper Nordin
rec. Rehearsal Hall, Royal Opera House, Copenhagen, August 2015
DACAPO 8.226589 [59.20]

There is Minimalism, and there is New Simplicity, pioneered by Ole Buck, the Danish composer. His pieces sometimes involve no more than five notes, often to haunting and dramatic effect. The music is marked by very simple figures, repeated but varied by different timbres and instrumentation. It is a risky approach to music: one could have a music so minimal that it has nothing worthwhile to say. That is not the case here. One senses a composer with something distinctive, and despite small forces, something powerful to say. The influence of nature and its sounds and rhythms is evident (Buck is a country dweller, though born in Copenhagen), all within a sense of spaciousness.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the extended final piece on this CD, Flower Ornament Music, from 2001. It has a languorous, slow, almost nocturnal beginning, but moves through episodes of rhythmic force and energy as well as gentler episodes to an uncertain and slightly inconclusive ending.

Buck’s career seems to have been an interesting one. He was a schoolboy composer, took advice from Per Nørgård, among others, was not accepted into the Royal Danish Academy of Music, but studied at Aarhus Academy of Music from 1965. His first major work, Calligraphy, written when he was 20, was modernist in style, but he seems quickly to have developed his own voice, as heard here.

The common features are the appeal of nature and the sense of rhythm and space. Yet, there is a sense of variety throughout the works here. Sounds seem offered not just for their own sake, and there is a feeling of argument and development. Some recent music shimmers rather aimlessly: here there is purpose as well as shape.

Recording quality is excellent, as one takes rather for granted with Dacapo. Performances are clear and affectionate.

Buck is very popular in Denmark and works of this beauty are worth wider circulation. This is a splendid disc to put alongside Buck’s Landscapes from 1996 (Marco Polo 8.224034).

This is one to explore and delight in.

Michael Wilkinson
Previous review: Rob Barnett

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