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Konstantia GOURZI (b. 1962)
Warchild Soundtrack (2006)
Suzanne Winter (soprano), Florian Bachmann (cello), Slavic Cernavca (clarinet), Ferran Cruixent (piano), Ensemble Oktopus / Konstantia Gourzi (piano)
rec. 2006
NORMAL N297CD [55:50]

I am not sure whether it is right to see a film before reviewing the music. I suspect there is no necessity to do so. Not having seen Warchild, from 2006, a bleak piece about displacement, set against the background of the Balkan Troubles, at least I am able to concentrate on the music itself, unconcerned by being influenced by extra-musical factors.

Konstanzia Gourzi has made a significant career as conductor, teacher and pedagogue, notably in Munich, where this CD was made. Her music, much of it – as here – for her own ensembles, includes a great deal for theatre and film. Warchild was her first film score. Further non-film works may be heard in her 2010 recording, Conjunctions-Synapsies (NEOS 11035) and, from 2014, Music for Piano and String Quartet (ECM 4810988). As conductor, she has made several recordings, particularly of Schoenberg and Henze. A notable characteristic of her work is the ability to draw on both contemporary and traditional styles, the latter both from the Balkans and the near-East. Her ability to capture atmosphere is remarkable.
She also has the gift of simplicity, much apparent in this music – one of those things which many composers struggle to achieve. Some tracks are only about a minute or so long, so it is difficult to judge how effective her technique might be over a longer span, but there is enough to suggest something very much richer than the pretty but rather aimless repetitions of an Einaudi.

What is clear is that as well as transparency of texture, she has grasp of both melody and mood. Take, for example, the longest track, a piece of just over four minutes, and the longest on the CD – A distant view. It begins quietly, before an entry of violin and plucked (occasionally scratched) strings. The music is slow, in parts keening, before the entry of the piano. The swelling and falling of the string accompaniment is wave-like, and one finally accompanied by the mournful sound of a clarinet. The piece is moving in its bleakness and extraordinarily evocative.

Two tracks, Strangelets Crew – Kustoriddim, and Strangelets Crew – Strangelets Hitting You, are additional music by a different (and much less talented) composer and sound engineer, Xaver Naudascher. On first hearing, I found them jarring, then liked them less on repeated hearing, despite some promising moments and nods towards an ethnic idiom.

The recording seems to have been issued in 2006, which was the date of the film. It is certainly worth hearing for Gourzi’s command of atmosphere, melody and texture.

Michael Wilkinson

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