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Gregers BRINCH (b. 1964) Spirals
Sonata for Violin and Piano No.1 Op.34 [20.26]
Sonata for Violin and Piano No.2 Op.64 [16.11]
12 Duos for Violins Op.60 [25.50]
Jonathan Truscott (violin)
William Hancox (piano)
Gazsi Josef (violin: duos)
rec. St Bartholomew's Church, Brighton, UK, 2008
Stereo 24/192; also available on CD CC5996-2 CLAUDIO BD-A CC5996-6 [62:49]
Gregers Brinch (pronounced 'brink') will be a new name to most listeners. He is of Danish/American parents, was born in Denmark but lived much of his life in England. His music has been performed in England, Denmark, Germany and France. Like the notes with this issue, everything I can find on-line, including the ubiquitous Wikipedia, is sourced from his own writings. His recorded music as listed on Presto Classical is mostly on the Claudio label. His website notes some other recordings not listed by Presto. Brinch states as a sort of maxim that "the main component in any good music is attentive listening." That being the case I have listened to the disc a few times and to some other music on-line including his Quartet No.1, a more gritty piece available on Navona Records NV5830 as well as in a different performance on YouTube. I hope to review the other two volumes soon.
The music on the present disc is easy to listen to and poses no challenges to the above-mentioned attentive listener. Though audibly a "contemporary composer", Brinch is never tempted to sound aggressively modern and interested purchasers are unlikely to be put off by the mainly lyrical nature of the three works. The two sonatas display compositional skill but I would suspect are more satisfying to players than to audiences. Brinch does note that the "new and challenging" is still to be found whilst working within the bounds of what he describes as "universally experienced musical elements", which I take to mean the conventions of 20th century tonal music. In that respect he might be compared to Robert Simpson who continued writing particularly string quartets and symphonies within the same tonal and contrapuntal framework, never trying to utilise the wilder extremes of serial or aleatoric composition. It might be noted that the decision did little to increase the number of performances of one of the UK's best 20th century composers. The story of Malcolm Arnold is not so very different. It was interesting to read
Brinch's article Time and Music where he worries that contemporary composers have lost their audience by making music too challenging to enjoy. I might add that the above pair lost not so much their audience as their performance opportunities by not following the "modern" fashions of the time.
Brinch's violin duos, which make up a little less than half this disc, are mostly arranged from songs originally scored for voice and violin and each has a title drawn from the words. Without those words the titles become simply labels. There are twelve duos and they provide a varied sequence to the listener, occasionally more impassioned but mainly gently lyrical. The composer's notes do provide guidance as to his illustrative intentions in the main pieces, the sonatas, but one could have done with a bit more explanation of how the duo titles are reflected in the music and indeed why the disc is called 'Spirals'.
This Blu-ray or its CD version will probably appeal more to musicians seeking new repertoire than to listeners at home. It may be others will hear more in the pieces than I did and of course there are two other volumes to explore which might alter one's perspective. Those with high-end playback systems will certainly find this makes for a good demo disc, squeaky clean and spacious in typical Claudio style.