Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

CROSSING PATHS (Kreuzende Wege)
WETTSTEIN Ritornello
KELLER Pentalog
GASSER Pastaccio
SIGRIST Incrociando
Sinfonietta Wetzikon/Howard Griffiths
Grammont Portrait CTS-M 54 [77.43]

You will never encounter a more unusual experiment, nor one completed with such remarkable success.

The five colleagues of the Zurich Composers' Group, used to meeting for administrative concerns, felt a need 'to expand their verbal dialogue into a musical one, by interaction on a compositional level'. The resulting project was a serious and demanding musical game, each piece to incorporate foreign material supplied by all four others! The outcome was five quarter-hour compositions, recorded live at a 1996 concert by the excellent Sinfonietta Wetzikon under its English-born, RCM trained conductor Howard Griffiths, long resident in Switzerland and devoted to furthering Swiss composers.

Some of the works incorporate prescribed procedures, others quote recognisable melodic phrases by their colleagues; the compositional solutions are described in fullest detail in a note by each composer. Peter Wettstein's 'colourful, gaudy' Ritornello is immediately attractive. Max Keller's four movements are perhaps the most complex; Werner Bärtschi's Feathertop is a scarecrow cousin of Dukas's apprentice, suitably using only those percussion instruments made of wood. Ulrich Gasser assigns specific instruments to his colleagues' quotations from their earlier pieces, and Martin Sigrist constructs a 'witch's kitchen' from dark to brilliant light, with 'apparitions' from works by his fellows. This, and the whole project, makes for a heady brew, and if the five composers became closer friends as a consequence of this collaboration (and the Group still exists in similar form?) there could be a basis here for an entertaining and educative contribution to a contemporary music festival such as Huddersfield's.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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