Notes and Editorial Reviews
String Quartet No. 2.
Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano.
Variations for Clarinet and String Quartet
John Kruse (cl);
Svend Winsløv (vc);
Anne Mette Stæhr
Synergie Guitar Qrt
dacapo 8.226528 (63:15)
Danish-born (1933) Finn Savery received his formal music education and training at the Royal Danish Academy, studying composition under Niels Bentzon. Further studies in Darmstadt, New York, and Boston led him to explore 12-tone and serial compositional techniques. He is mainly known, however, as a jazz pianist and vibraphonist, and as a composer of music for stage productions, television, and film. His 1962 musical,
, placed Savery in the limelight of the Danish popular culture scene.
The first movement of Savery’s 1983 String Quartet No. 2 evokes a remote stillness that momentarily reminded me of the opening fugue to Beethoven’s C?-Minor Quartet. Savery achieves his effect in much the same manner—i.e., the horizontal motion of voices engaged in contrapuntal dialogue—but his harmonic language is that of the unrelieved, though far from abrasive, dissonance of major sevenths and tone clusters, to which the ear quickly adjusts. Rhythmically amorphous, the music’s façade is one of enigmatic, shape-shifting images we can’t quite identify, but that still seem vaguely familiar. And indeed they are, for there is nothing really new or original here. We’ve heard it all before—the spatial, disembodied, impressionistic effects that can be traced back to Debussy (listen to the second movement), Shostakovich, and even Ligeti.
If the quartet shows us a softer, expressive, and stylistically consistent Savery, his 1999 Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano presents us with a rather more chaotic, multiple, and stylistically confused personality. Rhythmically fitful flurries of notes (
Schoenberg) alternate with fistfuls of discordant tone clusters, which then give way to an extended midsection of pure Coplandesque jazz, finally morphing into a sustained lyrical duo for clarinet and cello over a tolling, bell-like ostinato in the piano.
, in three movements for four guitars (1991), derives its title, according to the booklet note, from some mathematical notion of four (number of instruments) times six (number of strings on each instrument) times three (number of movements). Whether this has anything to do with the fascinating cover art that resembles a Sudoku puzzle, it’s hard to say; but the piece itself seems to be a rather puzzling study in repeated, overlapping, and echoing statements of varying durations that are not always clearly delineated or easily heard due to the homogeneity of four like instruments. At times, as in the last movement, titled “Ondes,” the effect is almost that of electronic music.
The Variations for Clarinet and String Quartet (2003) is a sequence of three melodies, each stated by the solo clarinet, each of which is itself a variant of a basic tone-row-like progression of notes, and each of which is followed by its own intervening variation. Once again, a multiplicity of musical styles is in evidence, with an infectious jazzy gigue variation forming the delightful Hindemithian conclusion.
Savery’s music is not difficult to warm to, being quite modernistic but clearly audience friendly. The players seem to take their parts seriously and, in the jazz-influenced movements, sound like they are having fun. Recording is excellent. Recommended to those seeking something new but not too unconventional.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Synergie by Finn Savery
Synergie Guitar Quartet
Period: 20th Century
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