PELLE GUDMUNDSEN-HOLMGREEN: Green Ground
01 December 2016
Contemporary string quartets are also featured on Green Ground (Dacapo 8.226153), five works from 2011 by the Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, who died just this past June at the age of 83. The works were written for and dedicated to the composer’s longtime collaborators the Kronos Quartet and also the vocal quartet Theatre of Voices under their director Paul Hillier. These world premiere recordings are of live concert performances in Copenhagen on December 4, 2012. The titles of the CD and the works are, at first sight, quite confusing: No Ground; Green; No Ground Green; New Ground and New Ground Green, but there is a clear logical progression here. Last Ground, the composer’s ninth string quartet from 2006, was supposed to be his last, but a tenth quartet, New Ground, and an eleventh, No Ground, were written in 2011 (three more were to follow in 2013). When PGH felt that the two new quartets needed to be connected, he wrote Green for four voices and wooden percussion, taking lines (“To the greenwood we must go”) from Desire, by the Renaissance English composer William Cornysh as his starting point. Green is then superimposed (a technique PGH had used before) on both New Ground and No Ground to produce, in effect, two new works. It’s certainly a fascinating soundscape, and quite difficult to describe. There are some extreme techniques employed and a basic lack of tonality, although there are beautiful moments in Green. Also, the New Ground quartet uses the ground from Pachelbel’s famous Canon, albeit with an extra bar and a chromatic twist thrown in for good measure. Don’t be fooled by the apparent easier access, though – things soon become more complicated. Again, a set of what must be definitive performances of some quite fascinating works.