Compositions by John Cage, Brendan Colbert, Thomas Reiner, Ken Murray, Harvey Solberger and Paul Moulatlet.
Re-sound are an Australian ensemble who here present eight chamber works, by members of the group and others. The sound-world is very contemporary, with all of the variations which that implies.
Musical director Thomas Reiner, for example, comes on like an updated Hindemith in his almost-tuneful, almost-tonal “Septet”. This is an ensemble which seems to love the multi-layered complications which Reiner brings into play here; reaching for another comparison, there’s something of Elliot Carter in this dancing, fiendishly contrapuntal music. It’s quite a contrast to Reiner’s other work on this programme, a clarinet solo which deals with long notes and pauses, taking an interestingly un-melodic approach to a naturally melodic format. Ken Murray, meanwhile, takes the conventionally percussive approach to solo classical guitar in a piece he performs himself; its mixture of snapping bass notes and rather consonant arpeggios is nice enough, but the four and a half minutes he gives it is about the limit for this kind of thing.
Brendan Colbert is a composer who has even closer links with New Complexity than Reiner’s; his “Agite” adds another very demanding and complicated-sounding piece to the solo flute repertoire. It’s breezy and joyously mercurial, and Melanie Chilianis carries it off with the flair it needs, proving that this style of music need not by drily “difficult” or “challenging” for the listener.
Colbert’s trio “Spiel” also appears, and it’s a more austere affair, but full of intricacies and with so much going on at once that you immediately want to go back and listen again. Harvey Solberger’s “Sunflowers”, a duet for flute and vibraphone, has a similar ambiance but a warmer overall tone; it feels like a more lightweight piece, but that makes it a good contrast with “Spiel”.
Paul Moutatlet’s “Chamber Work #2” was the only piece here which this writer found difficult to engage with; its rather formal feel distances it from much of the other material on the disk, and its similarity to other music written ten years before does it no special favours. It must be fun to play, but it’s pretty indifferent listening; neither good nor bad, but merely indifferent. That can’t be said for the vary late Cage composition “Seven”, which kicks off the CD in a veil of long notes out of which isolated sounds appear only to vanish again. It’s unlike anything else on this collection, and starting with a twenty-minute piece of such unassuming loveliness may have seemed a foolhardy move, but it works.
This is a very varied collection of new music, mostly new music from Australia, something which non-Australians rarely get to hear about. All of it is well-performed, often with a vigor which enlivens scores which might otherwise have fallen flat. Although there’s nothing ground-breaking here, there’s no special reason why there ought to be, and the compositions, most of them from the 1990s, are working with a vocabulary which is well-established and, many would say, time-tested, too. Richard Cochrane