Various Artists

Beat Furrer: Konzert für Klavier und Orchester; Invocation VI; Spur; FAMA IV; Retour an Dich; Lotófagos I

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Swiss-Austrian composer Beat Furrer is one of the most frequently performed European composers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His is stylistically an unabashed modernist, and he founded and directs Klangforum Wein, one of the premier European ensembles dedicated to cutting-edge new work. This disc offers a diverse sample of his work, six pieces written between 1984 and 2007, including vocal music, chamber music, and a concerto. Furrer's music is often more approachable than that of some other members of the European avant-garde because he is not afraid of repetition. His repetitions are of material considerably spikier than that of American minimalists, and don't have the same kind of regularity, but his repeated patterns do allow the listener to get a handle on one idea before it's supplanted by another, avoiding the sense of perpetual disjunction that can make new music difficult to grasp.

Furrer's Piano Concerto from 2007 is a bundle of nervous energy, packed with frantic skittering from the soloist and the orchestra. It's in one movement, but is in the traditional fast-slow-fast form. In its middle section, it's pared down to a spare pointillism, but it has hardly less tension than the frenetic outer sections. His vocal music is frequently fragmented and is far from bel canto in its style, but the combinations on this CD, of high voice with relatively low instruments (bass flute, contrabass flute, and double bass) provide considerable timbral and expressive variety. The various vocal soloists, pianist Nicolas Hodges, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, and the WDR Sinfonie Orchester Köln, led by Peter Rundel, offer dedicated performances, putting the music across with full conviction and considerable virtuosity. Kairos' sound is clear and clean, with a good sense of presence and space.

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