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Contrechant / Reto Bieri

Release Date: 12/06/2011 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 001627102   
Composer:  Luciano BerioElliott CarterPeter EötvösHeinz Holliger,   ... 
Performer:  Reto Bieri
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CONTRECHANT Reto Bieri (cl) ECM NEW SERIES 476 4404 (51:25)

BERIO Lied. HOLLIGER Contrechant. Rechant. SCIARRINO Let Me Die Before I Wake. CARTER Gra. EOTVOS Derwischtanz. VAJDA Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Lightshadow-trembling.

Booklet annotator Paul Griffiths sums up the ethos of this disc well when he says that “This is indeed song, song without words ... song leaving no space for words and needing no words, song in which sound alone sings.” It is difficult to think of a more eloquent “singer” (in this sense) than the clarinettist Reto Bieri, whose virtuosity is such that multiphonics are a logical expressive lyric device rather than an uncomfortable burden for the listener to carry. Here, multiphonics sound as natural as the flow of his fluid legato.

Bieri captures the intimacy of Berio’s Lied (1983) to perfection, the completely silent spaces between notes and phrases speaking as eloquently as the lines themselves. Berio’s life blood is cantabile , of course, and the sense of this permeates this brief (five-minute) gem.

It is the short, explosive ejaculation that marks out the beginning of a new piece—Holliger’s Contrechant (2007, from which the disc takes its name). This is more varied, dynamically angular terrain. Not only multiphonics but microtones and glissandi are present in the compositional vocabulary. The title has “ sur le nom de Baudelaire ” in parentheses after it, and indeed it constitutes a set of fantasies on the great poet’s name. There is also some performer input. The order of the segments of the “Epilog” is determined by the performer. Bieri opts for a closing that seems to slide itself into the stratosphere, where the sound evaporates. Holliger’s Rechant (2008) uses a cell of six notes, its repetitions masked by octave displacements and rhythmic shiftings. A seemingly deliberately ugly passage toward the end makes a huge mark, sitting in contrast to its gentler surroundings.

Characteristically, Sciarrino’s Let Me Die Before I Wake (1982) operates on the borders of audibility. It could hardly hope for a more skilled interpreter. The same notes are delivered as a harmonic by a number of processes (from different roots, for example). The effect is mesmeric and perhaps paradoxically (given the subject matter) more elusive and ghostly than lonely. Elliott Carter makes his contribution with the 1993 Gra (written for the 80th birthday of Lutos?awski). The title is Polish for “play” or “game,” and Bieri seems to relish the skittish passages.

In May 2011, the BBC hosted one of its “Total Immersion” days (a day in which they focus on one particular composer). This time the chosen one was Peter Eötvös. The opera Three Sisters (based on Chekhov) had to make do with a VHS of the Paris 2001 production shown in a cinema and minus subtitles, but there was plenty else of interest, including Judit Kele’s 1998 film The Seventh Door and several concerts, one of which included Derwischtanz . There, it was played by three clarinetists; here, one suffices. The work is in fact a 2001 adaptation of the 1993 percussion concerto Triangel . It acts as a reminder of Eötvös’s stature as a composer, and the world at large’s criminal neglect of this. Eötvös is in no way diminished by his better-respected bedfellows on this disc; rather, his six-minute piece (less overtly virtuosic than its title may suggest) holds its head high. Note, by the way, that the DG discs of Three Sisters made Robert Kirzinger’s Want List in 2000.

Finally, a composer new to me, Gergely Vajda (b.1973), an Eötvös pupil who has been appointed music director and conductor of the Huntsville Orchestra as of the 2011–12 season. His Lightshadow-trembling (1993) is a haunting study in ululating gesture. If you want to hear the piece, there is a YouTube video of a performance by Sandor Nagy; Bieri’s reading is more intimate than Nagy’s.

Bieri’s disc is a fabulous demonstration of the sheer expressive power of the solo clarinet. His virtuosity seemingly knows no bounds. A vastly stimulating disc.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Lied for Clarinet solo by Luciano Berio
Performer:  Reto Bieri (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983; Italy 
Gra by Elliott Carter
Performer:  Reto Bieri (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
Derwischtanz by Peter Eötvös
Performer:  Reto Bieri (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993/2001; Germany 
Contrechant by Heinz Holliger
Performer:  Reto Bieri (Clarinet)
Rechant by Heinz Holliger
Performer:  Reto Bieri (Clarinet)
Let Me Die Before I Wake by Salvatore Sciarrino
Performer:  Reto Bieri (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; Italy 
Ligthshadow-trembling by Gergely Vajda
Performer:  Reto Bieri (Clarinet)

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