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Gregers BRINCH (b. 1964)
Kåverdalen
Suite for Solo Cello Op.26 [21.25]
Parzival Suite for Solo Flute Op.95 [20.58]
Sonata Brevis for Solo Cello [19.15]
Rohan de Saram (cello)
Julie Groves (flute)
rec. 2008/11, St Bartholomew's Church, Brighton, UK
Stereo 24/192, also available on CD CC5993-2
CLAUDIO CC5993-6 DVD-A [61.38]

My reviewing of the three volumes of Brinch's music seems to have been in the right order. I was muted in my enthusiasm for Volume 3 (review). Volume 1 was much more interesting listening (review) and this Volume 2 is very impressive. Perhaps I have penetrated further into his world in the process. It is nearly always the case that when a piece of music does not impress one should simply listen again. Only then are you entitled to an opinion.

Gregers Brinch speaks of his love of the Danish landscape. This 2nd Volume of his pieces has been titled Kåverdalen after an area of dunes in the south of the island of Fanø just off the coast of Jutland at Esbjerg. The composer grew up in just such an area. However, the title has more to do with the cover picture by Anna Grethe Aaen than the music. She is a prolific painter of landscapes and this one, more of a seascape than a landscape does show a typical scene that one might see from a boat off shore. A long, flat line of sand.

The music is a great deal more varied than the picture might imply and indeed more than might be expected for music for a single instrument. Cello solos are not unusual, though for many music lovers they are mostly by Bach. For collectors who have progressed beyond Bach to Kodaly, Britten, Bloch and more, it will come as a pleasant discovery that Brinch has added two impressive pieces to the roster. It is no small help to have the services of Rohan de Saram to play the music and a recording of startling immediacy to project them in a domestic setting. I found them both gripping. The Suite for Solo Cello has four movements, each of which has a clear character. The first is, as the marking indicates, energetic and possesses real forward motion; the second is gentler but still has strength; the third movement has echoes of Shostakovich with its ostinatos and its rather more percussive nature; the finale, like the opening movement, is propulsive and moves firmly to what Brinch describes as a triumphant mood in the coda. The Sonata Brevis is not a great deal shorter than the suite and is also in four movements. It is a more obviously structured affair sounding gritty and determined as it works out small thematic cells. That said, when the third movement arrives it turns out to be an impassioned and lyrical piece. Brinch moves further in the finale by opening with a passage sul ponticello which is utterly unlike anything that has preceded it. Once that has subsided he is back working out his materials and ends with a mood of certainty and achievement as if the goal is reached. I should add that his own descriptions of the two cello works are dense and academic and are likely to mean little to a non-musician.

A listing of well known repertoire for solo flute is likely to be shorter still so this 20 minute suite is doubly welcome. The playing by Julie Groves is simply beautiful and as with the cello pieces the recording is quite magnificent - indeed I would suspect some systems may have trouble with some of the peaks because a flute can be surprisingly loud. The Parzival Suite is in five movements. Each movement depicts a stage in the legend. Here I part ways with Gregers Brinch because I cannot see how his descriptions help the listener in the slightest. Taken purely as a composition the work relies on the use of three motifs: the famous BACH, the almost equally famous DSCH of Shostakovich, and a similar motif of Brinch's own that is not specified. It is clear that the work gains coherence from the presence of such motivic cells but what makes it worth hearing (and one assumes, playing) is the breadth of imagination shown without ever resorting to unpleasant sound effects. Brinch has written of his delight at Julie Groves' performance and it is hard not to share his enthusiasm.

The recordings are as near perfect as it is possible to imagine - certainly on the reviewed DVD-A and doubtless the CD is little different. For those interested in this new music I would suggest this 2nd Volume in the series is a particularly good start.

Dave Billinge



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