This superb CD illustrates the capriciousness which determines exposure to
contemporary music in different countries. The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho
has become a familiar figure in UK concert life (she is to be a featured
composer at the Huddersfield Festival in November) and her CDs are freely
available. Jose Manuel Lopez Lopez is an important Spanish composer who is,
like so many, almost unknown this side of the Channel. I first encountered
his music through this very striking Violin Concerto (1995), played at the
Strasbourg musica99 festival (see
review in Seen &
Heard, October 1999). I am delighted it is on CD. Powerful, virtuosic
and orchestrated with great originality, in a single movement of 19 mins.
His earlier Lituus (1992) for brass quartet is another thoroughly
worth while piece, using extended techniques and special effects; it sounds
as if some of it might be improvised, but I guess probably not. Lopez is
widely performed in Europe and he has an extensive discography; a 'monographic'
CD devoted entirely to his music is to be released shortly.
Both composers have worked at IRCAM in Paris. Saariaho's music often involves
electronic manipulation of one type or another. Nuits, adieux and
Près both use electronics to fine effect. Electric Phoenix
is an English ensemble of singers well known on the contemporary music scene,
Judith Rees, Meriel Dickinson, Daryl Runswick & Terry Edwards, dedicated
to expanding the scope of vocal music. Ansi Kartunen is an exceptionally
gifted cellist and composer. This solo with electronics is a big piece and
an excellent demonstration of the scope now available to a solo instrumentalist
without needing a piano accompanist. It is dramatic and wholly absorbing.
Not much point in trying to describe all this strange music; it demands to
be heard and fresh experiences are assured to the open-eared. The recordings
(1992-95) are all excellent and this CD passes my test that a programme of
this type should be well balanced as a whole. The information is only in
Spanish, but the sound is all, so don't be put off from exploring this innovative
Finnish and Spanish music.
Peter Grahame Woolf
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