Barton Workshop / Ralph van Raat / Bart Spaan

Bart Spaan: Ellips

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Bart Spaan: Ellips Review

by Stephen Eddins

Dutch composer Bart Spaan (born 1963) was trained as a musicologist and historian, but the works here demonstrate a fine sense of musicality and an intuitive grasp of unconventional but compelling structure and development. The five piano pieces from the ongoing series Kringen (Circles) are transparent and evocative, and use a friendly tonal vocabulary. The composer writes that his intent was to suggest the impression of radiating circles made by throwing a stone into water. Sometimes it sounds like a rain of stones creating infinitely overlapping circles and sometimes like a single, ever-expanding circle, but once the image is lodged in the listener's consciousness, it's easy to hear the repetitive structures of each of the pieces as evocative of that idea. Ralph van Raat plays with sensitivity to work's delicacy and organic sense of development. Zone, for bass clarinet, bass trombone, and a bass flute player who also controls the live electronics is dominated by the ruminative mood that characterizes much of Kringen. The players, members of the Barton Workshop, are called on to produce a variety of atmospheric sounds using extended instrumental techniques, and the use of electronics is actually somewhat understated. The sound is mostly clean and present, but there is some page-turning noise in the piano solo.

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