Early & Late
14 March 2014
Gary HigginsonThis disc is such a brilliant idea
- the mixing of three new works by Scandinavian composers with traditional music from three slightly varying cultures, which, let’s be honest, is a little alien to most of us in the rest of the West.
I was fascinated by Rune Glerup’s Objets/décalages. It makes some extraordinary noises largely due to the high pitches used by the recorder. After a short while one gets used to that and look forward to the opening idea recurring in its rondo form. There are certainly some dance elements in the episode sections. Being surrounded, as it is, by a Danish dance and a Greenland Song (played, like everything, purely instrumentally) it did not seem to be at all out of place.
Our youngest son lives in Denmark and we have seen some of the delirious wedding celebrations ourselves and heard examples of the music. I was reminded of the dancing we did in the early hours at a village near Esbjerg where he was married when I heard the track of the Three Bridal Pieces from Sønderho which is a small community in South-western Denmark. Incidentally this track includes parts for the carving boards. This leads ideally into Sunleif Rasmussen’s Accvire. He is the Faroes’ leading classical composer but is drenched in traditional music. The scurrying figures which make up the A section of this ternary form piece and the still and long-breathed sounds of the longer middle section describe, according to the composer, the landscape which on the Faroes is forever changing. Warm sunshine is followed by wild showers, and sometimes the fog all contrasted with the vast panoramas.
The dance-like ending of his piece leads onto the Faroese song Brestiskvæði. At this point I should add that the group have added harmonies and counterpoint of their own to the traditional pieces and mostly these are successful. Bolette Roed, one of the performers, is even quoted as saying that these simple tunes gave them “the starting point … to create our own repertoire”. One of the most ‘interesting’ arrangements is the above Faroese piece especially in the mystic sound-world of its opening. Also the last three tracks are all of traditional pieces and each is harmonised or more accurately in some cases ‘orchestrated’, in a varied and imaginative manner. This applies, not least, to the last track ‘Goodnight and Farewell’ which has a distinctly ‘Machautian’ flavour.
Much of the interest and pleasure derived from this disc is in the unusual instrumentation which varies throughout. It’s stitched together, as it were, by the accordion: the staple diet of much ‘family’ music in Scandinavia and in other European countries. Combining it with the recorder or tin whistle and sometimes percussion or violin, entrances the ear.
The delineation of sounds available is deliberately exploited by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen in his Together or Not. The recorder, accordion and violin are each given quite differing material separately and then gradually attempt to merge. I found the piece had little to say or add and its restricted development failed to create a successful whole.
The group Gáman have worked together now for seven years. The booklet notes, interestingly composed by Trine Boje Mortensen (who is also a quiz show presenter), tell us that they had a huge repertoire on which to draw. It’s something of a pity then that the CD weighs in at less than fifty minutes. Although the programme is beautifully balanced one does feel rather under-changed especially as the sounds and general concept behind this project are unique and captivating.
Everything is beautifully recorded and enthusiastically and brilliantly performed. The booklet has photos and biographies of the three main young musicians.