Follow-up on my recent chance discovery of Piers Hellawell (see my blog post from March 29): received, heard and reviewed Piers Hellawell: Inside Story for violin, viola and orchestra. The Still Dancers for string quartet. Quadruple Elegy (in the time of freedom) for violin and chamber orchestra. Metronome Recordings MET CD 1059 (2002) and found that it entirely lived up to its promise. “The music of Hellawell is much of what I wish for when I listen to contemporary music: its language is advanced and demanding enough – no neo-romantic, clowingly sentimental film-music like gestures here, a genre in which many prominent composers seem to revel these days – but not intractably “avant-garde” either (vade retro, Ferneyhough and Wuorinen!); busy orchestrally, very colorful and atmospheric, loud at times and dramatic, dynamic and propulsive in the outer movements in a manner – oh very vaguely – reminiscent of Walton’s First Symphony. But also extremely lyrical – again, not the sentimental and mawkish lyricism of the reactionary neo-romantics, not a lyricism that whines, a passionate lyricism that scorches”. Although Hellawell occasionally uses some “advanced” performance techniques and modes of sound production, there’s nothing that strikes me as truly “ground-breaking” in his music, but he seems to me to offer a superb synthesis of “the old and the new”.
Long time no new entry on Discophage.com. But I did listen to Walter Fähndrich’s “Viola” on ECM and loved it – a chance discovery. Fähndrich is a Swiss viola player and composer, born in 1944, active more in sound installations in galleries and other spaces than in the traditional modes of commission, production and performance of contemporary music. Viola is a fascinating sonic exploration of the instrument, as original and important as Salvatore Sciarrino’s Six Capricci for the solo violin. Fähndrich is very little represented on CD, and I’ve immediately ordered his Räume / Spaces, on Unit Records, barcode 7619942412425.