It’s simple to give attention to massive establishments when bemoaning the lack of classical music in New York in the course of the pandemic; their concert events have been big-ticket gadgets, deliberate (and deliberate for) far upfront. Yet the allure of cultural life on this metropolis has typically been present in evenings that got here collectively on a shorter timeline, and at smaller venues.
I remembered this whereas listening to five new albums lately launched on the Kairos label — all that includes members of Klangforum Wien, an Austrian chamber orchestra with a robust fame in modern classical music.
They’re the sort of group you could possibly discover, earlier than the pandemic, enjoying a free live performance within the small recital corridor on the Austrian Cultural Forum in Midtown. You would possibly R.S.V.P. a few hours earlier than the efficiency, the place sterling renditions of not often heard repertoire would lend a vivid, sudden cost to the night. Existing someplace between the informality of the pop-up live performance and the pomp of the main symphonic or operatic showcase, these are sorely missed, too.
In some methods, although, an identical expertise is feasible with these new recordings, that are centered on particular person composers — Olga Neuwirth, Toshio Hosokawa, Rebecca Saunders, Salvatore Sciarrino and Georges Aperghis — and their works for soloists. The albums, recorded final summer season and every that includes a premiere commissioned by the ensemble, really feel like experimental-business-as-usual, executed at a usually excessive stage; the gamers sequence vistas of extremity and alarm subsequent to furtive glimpses of extra conventional instrumental magnificence. Few listeners will thrill to each single piece. But that’s regular, even helpful. (Remember risk-taking? The cultural sort, not the taking-your-life-in-your-hands-to-buy-groceries sort?)
A chancy total strategy helps the programming of the 5 albums resonate. Each comes with the subtitle “Solo,” Klangforum’s solely reminder of the constraints placed on pandemic recording practices. Otherwise, all of them supply a welcome launch from latest productions that promise good-enough amiability for the second. Even in case you’re unfamiliar with these composers, you may get began with the tracks beneath.
Olga Neuwirth: ‘Magic Flu-idity’
It’s somewhat little bit of a cheat to name “Magic Flu-idity” a solo. This work for flute — heard in New York, when Claire Chase played it as part of her “Density 2036” project in 2019 — requires a percussionist to hitch in, on an Olivetti typewriter. (On Klangforum’s launch, that percussionist is Lukas Schiske, becoming a member of the flutist Vera Fischer).
Still, Neuwirth earns the additional instrumental voice. The typewriter’s punchy carriage return — and its related pinging sound — has a manner of punctuating the top of barreling motifs within the flute writing. There’s a wit in these moments that leavens among the aggression discovered elsewhere. It’s a stability Neuwirth has additionally struck in her “Lost Highway Suite.”
If you end up gained over by “Magic Flu-idity,” find time for the primary observe on the album: “CoronAtion I: io son ferito ahimè” (2020), a piece for percussion and sampled audio commissioned by the group.
Toshio Hosokawa: ‘Falling Cherry Blossoms’
Hosokawa emphasizes his curiosity in Western experimentalism, conventional Japanese musical kinds, in addition to in calligraphy — which he has used as a metaphor for his personal compositional strategy. The first of his “2 Japanese Folk Songs” for harp, written in 2003, accommodates peculiar timbres and percussive fillips. But it additionally incorporates a transporting melodic gracefulness, notably in Virginie Tarrête’s recording.
His numerous reference factors are additionally identifiable in different works on the album. A piano solo, “‘Haiku’ for Pierre Boulez” accommodates the kind of heady modernism that its dedicatee specialised in; but it additionally has a Zen-inflected calm — what the ensemble’s liner notes describe as “an almost ego-less ‘Path of Awareness’” — that’s uncommon in Boulez’s physique of labor.
Rebecca Saunders: ‘Dust’
A mysterious play with texture and spare melodic supplies kind the core of Saunders’s aesthetic; simply take heed to the latest launch of her orchestral works within the Musica Viva sequence (one in all my favorite albums of 2020). Klangforum’s tour of her writing for solo devices shouldn’t be as constantly thrilling. Though performed effectively by the pianist Florian Müller, Saunders’s “Shadow,” from 2013, appears much less distinctive than the composer’s finest items — its speedy adjustments in dynamics acquainted from classic experimental tendencies.
But different entries on this solo set ship. One is “Dust,” a percussion piece carried out right here by Björn Wilker. Saunders’s creativeness is effectively represented inside the work’s wealth of sonic results. The motion between uneasy, wobbling tones and steadier, extra mournful harmonies for pitched percussion parts is each persuasive and ravishing. And the album’s closing work — one other piano solo, commissioned by Klangforum and carried out by Joonas Ahonen — exhibits a composer totally accountable for her voice. (That solo, titled “to an utterance — study,” could whet appetites for her bigger piano concerto of the identical title, set to premiere later this yr.)
Salvatore Sciarrino: ‘Due notturni: I’
Sciarrino is maybe the best-known composer represented on this Klangforum set, however the album dedicated to his solos nonetheless accommodates surprises. The leadoff pair of nocturnes, composed in 1998, have a relaxed air, notably when put next with the extra harried “Notturni crudeli” piano solos. Another spotlight is “Canzona di ringraziamento,” a quivering and arresting “mutation” for alto saxophone.
Georges Aperghis: ‘Lopsided Sob’
Save essentially the most dramatic, intense album within the “Solo” sequence for the top. Aperghis’s experimental sound world is famously theatrical; and “Lopsided Sob,” a 2015 piece for accordion, exhibits that he was shedding none of his febrile aptitude as he approached age 70.
There’s a gamboling high quality within the dense first figures. The drama will increase, paradoxically, because the music transitions into quieter dynamics. Will the opening aggression return? While you wait to search out out, the coexistence of Aperghis’s dissonant harmonies and the effervescence embedded in Krassimir Sterev’s efficiency produces a pleasingly dizzying impact.