Thomas Demenga


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Yet another bold pairing of old and new, this double CD of Hosokawa/Bach/Yun has Swiss-born Thomas Demenga holding court with Bach and the Asian avant-garde composers Toshio Hosokawa and Isang Yun. This somewhat unconventional marriage of aesthetics makes for a rose with very long thorns indeed, but the musicians are so accomplished that neither era sounds supplemental. Hosokawa's opening "In die Tiefe der Zeit" looms overhead like an icicle; a menacing stillness that gleams in stark white. Teodoro Anzellotti's accordion adds a surprisingly effective chill in the air, seeping out exhales of dissonance while Demenga's violoncello and Asako Urushihara's violin pluck and slither about in the shadows. This opening piece is the most gripping passage of the album, even as the composer paints the air with broader strokes elsewhere (his "Winter Bird" darts about with threatening unpredictability). Then, almost in denial of what came before, Demenga unfolds Bach's "Suite No. 5 in C Minor" and "Suite No. 6 in E Major" with weight and reverence, seasoned with a healthy dose of grit. Owed in part to some well-researched "early" tuning, the performer reveals a patient and profound earthiness in his subject. His dark and expressive solo mastery of Bach is passionate as well as visceral. Disc two eventually returns to the jutting acrobatics of the Asian contemporaries, with a trio of pieces by Isang Yun, whose work at once shivers with horror, curtsies bashfully at a suitor, or sighs with distracted melancholy. "Gasa," "Espace I," and "Images" all take turns flowing through Demenga as if he were possessed, and Thomas Larcher's accompanying piano ranges from explosive to ethereal. As a cohesive album, some might think of Hosokawa/Bach/Yun as being too far a gap to bridge; listeners might not be able to digest all the extremes in one sitting. It would some sort of chameleon-esque virtuoso to hold their attention through such rocky terrain. Demenga does so, triumphantly.