OLE BUCK: Sinfonietta Works
23 September 2016
Ole Buck (b. 1945) is one of the only composers to have emerged from Denmark's 20th-century search for 'new simplicity' as a genuine minimalist. He could be described as a Danish Howard Skempton, both in the penetrating resonance of his very pure music and in the fact that he's never been adequately celebrated in his own country. Sometimes Buck's music has the busy gait of classic American minimalism and sometimes it gravitates more towards Baltic purity, using just a handful of notes. Fiori di ghiaccto (1999) has elements of both. It was written in response to a dream in which the composer opened his curtains to a landscape whitened by snow and ice. The music is intangible but absolutely present, like fog or smoke. A Tree (1996) suggests in its cleanliness and order (in a literal and tonal sense) why Buck's music has been compared to Japanese drawing.
Here Buck speaks of tonality as the trunk of a tree - sustained wind chords - while flowering activity in other instruments represents its branches: blossoming, modernity, progress. Flower Ornament Music digs deeper and deeper with its cyclic repetitions - up to a point. I feel the concentration is lost when the work becomes slightly cluttered by percussion sounds and then fragments, before emerging into something more like the urban American minimalism our ears know so well. In other words, the meditative spell of the Zen Buddhism that inspired it evaporates. [Untitled] (2010) is a sort of Pictures at an Erhibition in which the pictures remain unknown to us - abstract elements woven into the music's evolving, intensifying patterns. The Athelas Sinfonietta's playing is suitably hypnotic, with beautiful solos and a sense of the music's haze despite a close recording. Resonant and fascinating music from a composer who knows himself and his art.