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RECORDING OF THE MONTH

MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund) http://www.musikszene-schweiz.ch http://www.musiques-suisses.ch/

William BLANK (b.1957)
Trio à cordes (1997) [18.28]
Trio Contrechamps: Isabelle Magneat, v; Ruth Killius, vla; Daniel Haefliger, vc.
Recorded live by Radio Suisse Romande in Geneva, 14 March 1998
Anacrousis pour percussion solo (2001) [18.47]
Michael Tschamper, percussion
Recorded in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 July 2002
Cris pour piano et ensemble (1999) [21.05]
David Lively, Piano; Ensemble Contrechamps/William Blank.
Recorded live at Maison de la Radio, Geneva, Swizerland, 2 April 2000
Ebbe(n) pour grand orchestra (2000) [19.07]
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Fabio Luisi
Recorded live in Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, 11 October 2001
Notes in Français, Deutsch, English. Photo of composer and artists.
Co-production of Radio Suisse Romande and Espace 2
MUSIQUES GRAMMONT PORTRAIT MGB CTS-M 79 [77.17]
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Looking at the titles of some of these works ó Crash!, Screams ó and reading that the composer made his firm commitment to serial music at the age of 20 in 1977 (Thatís roughly equivalent to a Russian joining the Communist Party for the first time in 1990 in the sense that in 1976 Philip Glassís "Einstein on the Beach" had opened at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and within a year the anti-serialist Neo-Romantic revolution was in full swing world-wide.). When I put the disk on to play I wasnít expecting to enjoy or even make any sense of what I heard.

Imagine my surprise and delight then to discover what wonderful music this is! Yes, Blank uses some rough sounds, but he accomplishes much more with them than, say, Boulez or Varèse accomplish with these very same sounds. There is everywhere a sense of structure, balance, progression, and drama. The photo of the composer on the cover of the disk booklet shows a handsome young man looking smug and sure of himself, and, after hearing his music, you smile with him and agree that he has every right to be proud. Of course Blank isnít a young man any more; heís 47 (but he does what I do in portraying himself as he wishes to be seen). The music requires, and receives, state-of-the-art recording.

The trio is pretty scrapy in sound but not gratuitously so. Itís a fascinating work that keeps oneís attention and makes a worthwhile statement. The Anacrousis ó a Greek word with several meanings, one of which refers to the loud crashing noise that got the audienceís attention at the beginning of a concert ó is one of the best all-percussion works Iíve ever heard. One is not put off by noise, but is drawn into the sound and fascinated by the contrasts and motion. Even the work called Screams for large ensemble is remarkably full of interesting transitions and contrasts. Ebbe(n) means "Ebbtides" and being for full orchestra offers the composer even more opportunities for substantial musical statements and he makes good use of them. All in all I look forward to hearing this disk many more times and to hearing more from William Blank in the future.

Paul Shoemaker

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