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Songs and Poems
Andreas DOHMEN (b. 1962) 
versi rapportati for alto/baritone saxophone, piano and percussion (2012/13) [13:02]
Hans THOMALLA (b. 1975)
Lied for tenor saxophone, piano and vibraphone (2007/8) [12:42]
Walter ZIMMERMANN (b. 1949)
As I was walking I came upon chance for tenor saxophone, piano and percussion (1998-2008) [16:20]
Wolfgang RIHM (b. 1952) 
Gegenstück for contrabass saxophone, piano and percussion (2006) [11:18]
Aldo CLEMENTI (1925-2011) 
Tre Ricercari for alto saxophone, piano and celesta/vibraphone/tubular bells (2000) [19:09]
Trio Accanto (Marcus Weiss (saxophones), Nicolas Hodges (piano), Christian Dierstein (percussion))
rec. 2017, Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal, WDR Cologne
WERGO WER73642 [73:21]

It's an intriguing title, but contrary to what it states on the tin, there are no songs or poems. Yet, the five pieces, some of which were commissioned by the Trio Accanto, reflect " underlying longing.........for language, voice and song, and the hidden meanings of poetry". The Trio has an unusual set-up - saxophone, percussion and piano, rather like a jazz trio, but they don't play jazz. Walter Zimmermann and Wolfgang Rihm I was already familiar with, the other three composers I'm encountering for the first time.

Andreas Dohmen's 'versi rapportati' (Related Verses) was written especially for the Trio Accanto. The work is "composed with chains of lines - lines that have clearly defined lengths and a predetermined number of elements and densities of activity". The piano opens proceedings in an aggressively percussive mode, against a rippling saxophone figure. A jazz idiom permeates the work. The freedom, spontaneity and improvisational thrust puts one in mind of a jam session.

There’s an overwhelming static quality to Hans Thomalla’s ‘Lied’, also commissioned by the ensemble, which the composer describes as “four verses, three refrains, and a coda”. An usual feature is that he notates the vibrato of the vibraphone and saxophone, and the result of the calibration is that, at times, the two instruments are indistinguishable. For the most part the narrative is reflective and calm, with the music consisting of instrumental strands, evoking an eerie terrain. By contrast, Walter Zimmermann’s ‘As I was walking I came upon chance’ has a more active dimension, with constant movement and transformation. It started life as a 1986 piano piece Wüstenwanderung (Desert Wandering) about Plato. In seven parts it was ‘designed to disintegrate under the weight of its own complexity’. In this arrangement, made especially for the Trio Accanto, the parts are distributed amongst the three players. Bells and other percussion instruments make this a highly colourful score.

I have to admit to being a great fan of the music of Wolfgang Rihm, so am delighted at the inclusion of Gegenstück (Counter-Piece), which dates from 2006. His employment of the contrabass saxophone allows for some curious effects, such as mutters, snaps, splutters and puffs. The use of silences, as much as the music itself, adds potency and drama. The piano part is confined to the lower reaches, and the use of some exotic percussion, including a large tam-tam, a Javanese nipple gong and marimba, coupled with rhythmic hesitation and falter add to the allure.

Aldo Clementi's Tre Ricercari was also tailor made for the Accantos. The work exists in two versions, one shorter, one longer. The latter is performed here. Basically the three Ricercari are played in mirror sequence, with the sequence being repeated three times, each subsequently at a slower tempo. The effect is hypnotic and, as the music progresses at more measured piece, the listener becomes aware of more and more detail.

These overwhelmingly committed performances, recorded in a suitably spacious perspective, cannot fail to cast a powerful spell on the listener. I thoroughly enjoyed this release, and am convinced it will reward anyone with a similar spirit of adventure to my own.

Stephen Greenbank


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