Peter Bruun: Letters to the Ocean
21 November 2011
The Danish label Dacapo have been a source of pleasure and surprise in
recent years, notably for their recordings of Per Nørgard's Der göttliche Tivoli
and A Light Hour
, not to mention Rued Langgaard's Music of the Spheres
all are works of refreshing individuality, superbly played and
recorded. Peter Bruun is new to me, but as Jakob Wivel points out in his
proselytizing notes he's highly eclectic in his inspiration and output.
That may set alarm bells ringing in some quarters, but on first
acquaintance I was persuaded there's a flair and focus to Bruun's
writing that's always engaging. The Esbjerg Ensemble
must take some
credit for this, as they play with uncommon verve throughout.
Letters to the Ocean,
first heard as a quintet based on a
poem by Ursula Andkjær Olsen, is played here in the version for large
ensemble. In four named sections that might tempt one to all sorts of
aquatic metaphors, When Night Falls
is essentially an exercise in
persistent - and strangely insidious - rhythmic ideas. Bruun's writing
has a cool, crystalline quality that never lacerates, and one simply has
to marvel at the level of detail and colour in the rather more lyrical Drown One Ocean in Another
. Even in its occasional vehemence this
music is most natural recorded; this ensures that the essential warmth
and clarity of this band is faithfully caught, the fragmented collisions
at the close of this movement remarkably tactile. And as their titles
suggest, Calm Down
reveal a quieter, more
ruminative side to Bruun's musical persona.
One can't fail to be impressed by the pellucid quality of both the
music and the music-making, the simplicity of utterance concealing a
keen ear for texture and rhythmic subtlety. That's certainly true of A silver bell that chimes all living things together,
set to a poem by Rolf Gejsted; it's mixed from much the same palette as before, ‘Through your song' introducing the singing and sprechgesang
of mezzo Helene Gjerris and, occasionally, a new and atavistic bass.
It's a strange juxtaposition, but it all hangs together surprisingly
well. And don't expect music-box delicacy from A silver piano that
chimes all living things together
, which is underpinned by a
declamatory, rock-like beat.
How different from the vestigial sounds of The mournful guitars
and Now a double bass takes off
, whose absurdist titles belie music of
distilled beauty and strange charm; Gjerris is pure and magnetic here,
limpid in ‘Now it is raining on a song'. Hers is a voice of silver and
strength, and one I'd love to hear in Mahler. That said, the orchestra
also shines, the music's valedictory air and faltering pulse superbly
caught by the Dacapo engineers. This may not be an SACD, but the class
and sophistication of this recording is very impressive indeed.
The concluding work, the four-part Waves of Reflection,
be less serendipitous than the other pieces here, yet it's still highly
engaging. The Varèse-like sound blocks of ‘Reflection', commingled with
brass chords and heavy beats, create a kaleidoscope of clashing shapes
and colours, the accordion adding its distinctive, breathy sound to Interlude
. As for the gentle lapping of Wave
, it has a curious sense
of detachment - of Orientalism, perhaps - that could so easily pall.
That it doesn't is testament to Bruun's good judgment - he doesn't
overwork his material - and the fabulous playing of the Esbjerg
This is another quality release from Dacapo, Wivel's exhaustive
notes confirming the company's belief in good production values. And
while some may feel 55 minutes is short measure, this is a well-balanced
and varied ‘taster' that's whetted my appetite for more. What better
recommendation than that?
Read more: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2011/Nov11/BruunLetters_Dacapo8226553.htm#ixzz1eKMi9eZW