Marina KHORKOVA (b. 1981) Collision (2015) [26:05] klangNarbe (2014-15) [20:32] a_priori (2013) [16:48]
VORderGRENZE (2010) [8:03]
Streichquartett (2010) [17:58]
Beschwörung durch Lachen (2011) [2:23]
rec. June 2011, Grosser Saal, Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Stuttgart (Beschwörung durch Lachen); April & October 2015, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal Köln WERGO WER6418-2 [63:56 + 28:53]
Russian-born composer and pianist Marina Khorkova has set herself up in Berlin, and her multi award-winning biography points to a successful and ongoing career in the central European avant-garde music scene. This Wergo portrait is an excellent overview of her recent output, and the description of her music as “multi-layered soundscapes full of contrasts from a wide range of multiphonics and noises” is a potted but reasonable summing up of what to expect from these recordings.
Collision covers a remarkable range of sonorities with only seven players, with a plethora of percussion effects, moments coloured with distorted electric guitar, machine-like twangings and improvisatory storms and wailing from cello and winds – instruments exploring unexpected worlds or sound – “a reversal among the aggregate sonic states”. The booklet descriptions supply further reference points, her “sonic landscapes tend to be dominated more by metallic severity, inhospitable frequencies, and raw and threatening noises than by tenderly whispered overtones”. The very title klangNarbe or “sound-scar” is suggestive of this kind of content, “a jagged soundscape whose topography is subject to constant erosion”. Bowed percussion and non-conventional piano sonorities join with desperate saxophone sounds, the dynamic extremes of the musical action sustained by continuous resonances of one kind or another.
a_priori for flute an cello takes these “continually flowing movements of sound” into a more reflective space, the absence of percussion leaving room for refined and subtle multiphonic effects, the dramatic interruptions of which becoming all the more theatrical through the smaller framework of this instrumentation in a piece that “emerges from and returns to silence over and over again”.
The dark world of VORderGRENZE is revealed in its opening cry, with “existential sounds on the border between life and death, represented by various breathing sounds that are sometimes amplified and sometimes translated into instrumental voices”. That “struggle for the final breath” is a grim and claustrophobic chamber of turbulence and disturbing imagery, an ideal vehicle for combining Khorkova’s soundworld with ‘literary’ associations.
Streichquartett “employs a broad range of overtones based on scordatura in all four instruments”. Marina Khorkova is never going to deliver something conventional, and as you might imagine, her string quartet sounds would have Beethoven raising at least one eyebrow. Resonance and undertones play off each other to create a wide range of sounds and textures, and whispering whistles are questioned by gripping, strangely intonated tones and gritty interactions between bow and string.
To finish, we have Beschwörung durch Lachen or ‘Invocation through laughter’, a brief and intense piece that, “based on a poem by Velimir Chlebnikov that derives the whole of its semantics from the word for laughter, is a ghastly and nightmarish landscape of sound”. The text is printed on the back of the booklet. Unusual instruments such as the Cembalo Universale that combines all kinds of tuning into a single collection of strings, make this into something rich, strange, and a headache for concert producers.
This collection of works is a valuable look into the work of an intriguing avant-garde European voice in 21st century music. The question as to whether you will find it a rewarding exploration or not has to remain a subjective one. I can appreciate these as works of art more than as music, in the sense that I can imagine them as fascinating performances more than I can see myself wanting to hear them more than once through loudspeakers. The performances and recordings made specially for this release are very good indeed. Presentation and documentation is also fine, though I wish someone at Wergo would make up their mind about using capital letters or not on their cover designs.
Performers Collision: Ensemble Ascolta/Michael Wendeberg klangNarbe: Trio Accanto a_priori: Beatrix Wagner (flute), Gerald Eckert (cello) VORderGRENZE: Lanet Flores (clarinet), Caspar Johannes Walter (cello), Helena Bugallo (piano)
Streichquartett: Kairos Quartett Beschwörung durch Lachen: Alessia Hyunkyung park (soprano), Koka Nikoladze, Susanne Kabalan (monochord), Johannes Keller (cembalo universal), Yulia Draginda, Marina Khorkova (piano)