René Clemencic (1928, Austrian)

The Austrian René Clemencic is known primarily, and possibly exclusively, as a musicologist, keyboard and recorder player and, with his pioneer period-instrument ensemble “Clemencic Consort”, conductor, mostly of Medieval-to-baroque music. But he’s a composer too. I chanced on his Ballet-Pantomime “Drachenkampf” (Combat of the Dragon), for brass quintet and percussion, as I was compiling a discography of the French label Accord. It sold cheap, so I went for it. I didn’t know what to expect, or rather, I expected some kind of neo-Medieval pastiche.

Not at all – or only inasmuch as Carl Orff’s music can be considered “neo-Medieval pastiche” (which it isn’t, in my view). Clemencic’s style is fully contemporary, though not indebted to the serialist avant-gardes of the 1960s to 1990s. Certainly, he uses avant-garde techniques in his brass writing, but the music seems largely based on vehement brass interjections, melodic cells that are stated rather than (from what I hear) developed. For that reason, the music is reminiscent of Orff (but the later Orff of the Greek Tragedies rather than of Carmina Burana) and Varèse, but also, at times, of Romanian Oratio Radulescu’s idiosyncratic version of “musique spectracle”. Appreciation will be a matter of taste, the lovers of the serialist avant-garde of the 1960s to 1980s may find the music too simplistic. I’ve enjoyed it a lot, so much so that I immediately bought the other works of Clemencic that I could find, namely Kabbala on Col Legno WWE 1CD 31861, bc 675754143626 or 5099703186123, and Apokalyspsis on Arte Nova 74321 72115 2, barcode 743217211523. Stay tuned.

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