ASKO Ensemble / Roland Kluttig

Richard Ayres: NONcertos and others

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There is something very Monty Pythonesque about the music of British composer Richard Ayres (born in 1965) in the outrageous level of its surreal non sequiturism; if Messrs. Gilliam, Idle, Cleese, et al., had been composers, this might well be what their music would have sounded like. The three manically disjunct works recorded here, written between 1997 and 2006, are characterized by a strict avoidance of traditional principles of logic or coherent musical development, except in the cases where those principles are employed only to be slyly subverted (for example, in the first movement of the NONcerto for horn, in which the soloist is required to run back and forth across the stage, mounting ramps that are supposed to simulate the Alps, to create the effect of horn calls echoing between distant peaks). Ayres cites Schnittke and Janácek as inspirations, and it's possible to hear the influence of Schnittke's polystylism, but executed with an acute sense of the ridiculous not usually associated with the Russian composer. It's also easy to detect the sound of Janácek's quirky late Romanticism. An associate once angrily denounced Ayres for writing "rhapsodic" music as if that were an inherently bad thing, but Ayres' music, in fact, in spite of being fragmented by absurd disjunctions, is full of rhapsodically beautiful moments in the conventional sense of sweeping Romantic lyricism. A question that his music reportedly frequently elicits is, "But is it supposed to be taken seriously?" The answer is the listener's court; it's not "normal" for the silly and the beautiful to be thrown together with such apparently inchoate abandon, but ultimately, for listeners who can let go of conventional expectations, Ayres' music can be exhilarating, even thrilling, in its promiscuous embrace of wild hilarity and ravishing lyricism. Roland Kluttig leads three excellent ensembles -- Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, ASKO Ensemble, and musikFabrik -- in exuberant, off-the-wall performances. Strongly recommended for fans of new music that offers Something Completely Different.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
No. 37b for Orchestra
1 7:34
2 4:08
3 4:08
4 7:22
No. 36: NONcerto for Horn
5 6:02
6 5:36
7 1:32
8 3:24
9 0:21
10 0:30
11 0:49
12 0:43
13 0:23
14 1:03
15 0:29
16 0:51
17 0:19
No. 31: NONcerto for Trumpet
18 5:37
19 4:26
20 8:34
blue highlight denotes track pick