Après un premier disque Schmelzer salué avec enthousiasme par la critique (Editor's Choice de Gramophone, Choc de Classica), l'ensemble Masques dirigé par Olivier Fortin revient chez Alpha dans un programme alliant des oeuvres de Muffat, Kerll ou encore Pachelbel avec celles d'un compositeur resté totalement inconnu, Romanus Weichlein (1652-1706). Moine bénédictin, préfet et compositeur attitré de l'abbaye de bénédictines de Säben, Romanus Weichlein laissa plusieurs collections de sonates et de messes mais aussi de grandes chaconnes; autant de pages magnifiques qui s'inscrivent dans la tradition de ses compatriotes Biber, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Pavel Josef Vejvanovsky et Georg Muffat.
Noted as a "maximalist" for his densely textured, intricately constructed serial works, Brian Ferneyhough is a challenging composer by any standard, and his uncompromising and intensely demanding scores are some of the most original of the late avant-garde. In such complicated chamber works as Funérailles I (1969-1977) and Funérailles II (1969-1980), both versions for seven strings and harp, Ferneyhough presents thickets of notes and short gestures that are tightly organized, but so abrupt and pointillistic that the lay listener may mistake them as random fragments, not at all as recurring ideas. Similarly, in the rhythmically layered Bone Alphabet for percussion (1991) and the angular Unsichtbare Farben (Invisible Colors) for solo violin (1999), the ear can only take in the surfaces of the music, having no way to grasp the underlying patterns that are employed. Yet it would be a mistake to think these pieces are just cerebral exercises, since Ferneyhough is too good a composer to pass off intellectual doodles as serious work. While there are designs in these pieces only a theoretician may comprehend and abrasive sonorities only a die-hard modernist may love, there are points of tension and release that are easily perceived, and textures and timbres that a prepared listener may appreciate without too much strain.
Helge Sunde is a 44-year-old Norwegian trombonist and composer who often works with jazz/classical composer Geir Lysne, sounds as if he checks out Hermeto Pascoal, Django Bates, Carla Bley, and British jazz and TV composer Colin Towns – and who has produced a cracker of a contemporary big-band album with this set. Sunde's Denada ensemble has produced powerful work before, but the balance of moods, melodic variety and arranging ingenuity on Finding Nymo (the sax-playing Nymo brothers Frode and Atle are star soloists) ought to raise his standing outside continental Europe. He throws listeners off the big-band scent with the eerie vocoder whispers at the start, but busy phrase-swapping between the horns, and arrhythmic ensemble riffs with solo-sax wails rising out of them introduce a Django Bates feel. When In Rome is a hooting, swaggering theme with revving engines and street noise, Valse Triste starts like a funeral lament and turns into a demonically waltzing dance, and the title track begins as tentative, sputtery improv, then coalesces into a melody. Guests Olka Konkova (piano) and Marilyn Mazur add flourishes to an already formidable set.
The hook for this terrific recording of three of Steve Reich's most attractive works is the use of alternate versions of the several pieces that differ from the original recordings on Nonesuch. This recording has Reich's imprimatur; he enthusiastically recommends the performances in a program note. The most radical departure from the original version is Piano Counterpoint, Vincent Corver's arrangement of Six Pianos for a single live pianist with the other five parts prerecorded. This allows the piece to fit nicely into Reich's "Counterpoint" series, which includes Vermont Counterpoint for flutes and New York Counterpoint for clarinets. Corver also speeds up the tempo so the piece has an even more propulsive aural energy, although in live performance it's hard to beat the visceral excitement of six pianists on-stage. The London Steve Reich Ensemble version of the Triple Quartet, unlike the Kronos Quartet's premiere recording, uses three live quartets, and is one of three performance options that Reich specified in the score, the third being an orchestral version with 36 players. This is the first commercial recording of this version.