Spirals/Gregors Brinch – CC5996
£9.99 – £23.99
“This Blu-ray or its CD version will probably appeal more to musicians seeking new repertoire than to listeners at home. It may be others will hear more in the pieces than I did and of course there are two other volumes to explore which might alter one’s perspective. Those with high-end playback systems will certainly find this makes for a good demo disc, squeaky clean and spacious in typical Claudio style”
My musical inspiration, I believe, has many sources. I am inspired in particular by the qualities of the musical intervals, and this in turn gives rise to a sense of tonality in my music. It is the inner activity of the soul that interests me, and I have adopted an attitude throughout my composing life that the “new and challenging” is still to be found within the context of the universally experienced musical elements. My love of drama, and my occasional work as an actor has also had a strong influence on my music. In my experience, music is analogous to human experience and it is out of this experience that I compose and in the midst of creating a piece I experience the interplay between myself, and the evolving piece with a mixture of joy and pain. The coastline of Denmark with its long beaches and rolling sand dunes was my childhood’s playground. Here I developed a lifelong love of birds and nature. It is possible that these elements find their way into the music, but I don’t consciously portray them.
Upon completing an intensive period of independent study with the help of Cecil Cope and Louis Alvanis between the age of 20 and 23, I entered the Musikseminar in Hamburg, Germany to study composition with Elmar Lampson as well as piano with Alan Newcome and Ulrike Bauer. After graduating I went on to teach in adult education both in Hamburg, Germany and at Emerson College, Sussex, England. During this time I continued to devote more time to developing my compositional aims. In 2001 I gave up my secure post there in order to pursue composing more fully, and my compositional output has increased from this time onwards. Since 2014, I have been artistic director of the International Concert Series at Steiner Hall in London, where my works are regularly performed. I am also member of Brighton New Music in the UK and ‘Komvest’ in Copenhagen, Denmark. My works have been performed frequently in the UK (including the Wigmore Hall) as well as in Denmark, Germany and France. In addition to Claudio Records releases I have released the CD ‘Blue Harmony’ which features my piano-works recorded by internationally acclaimed pianist Diana Baker, and the CD ‘Harmonious Dissonance’ which includes my String Quartet No.1 Op.56 was released on Parma Records in USA in June 2010. The collaboration with award-winning Flautist Julie Groves and Whitbread-Prize winning author Lindsay Clarke has resulted in a CD with works for Baritone and Flute and Flute solo on the theme of Parzival.
© 2018 Gregers Brinch
Jonathan Truscott was born in London and studied violin with Itzhak Rashkovsky and Eszter Boda Katona, furthering his studies in Transylvania with Ferdinand Kozak. After a couple of years performing with the Targu-Mures Philharmonic Orchestra of Romania he returned to the UK to pursue his interest in contemporary chamber music.
Jonathan is the leader of Modulus String Quartet, which specialises in the performance and recording of music by contemporary composers. His career has taken him to concert halls around the world and performances broadcast on both radio and television.
William Hancox has always had wide-ranging musical interests including solo playing, chamber music, duo work and vocal coaching. His recent trip to China typified this breadth of approach, with masterclasses for both singers and pianists, a solo recital and his second performance of Constant Lambert’s The Rio Grande in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing. He has premiered contemporary works by Roxanna Panufnik and Richard Blackford at the Cheltenham Festival and London’s South Bank, recorded the complete works for voice and piano of the Icelandic composer Jon Asgeirsson, contemporary violin and cello sonatas (with international cello virtuoso Rohan de Saram) by Gregers Brinch, the complete Morike songs of Hugo Wolf and a disc of classical lullabies with Austrian soprano Esther Levin. William has broadcast for the BBC and Classic FM. He was educated at Cambridge, subsequently studying with the Hungarian pianist Joseph Weingarten, himself a student of Dohnanyi, Bartok and Kodaly.
Born in Romania in 1970, Josef Gaszi hails from a gypsy family of music lovers. As a 4 year old he already played in his father’s traditional band and frequently performed at weddings in his native Transylvania. He went on to take up a scholarship at a music college and later studied at the Musikakademie Cluj-Napoca in Rumania. In 2001 he completed his concert diploma at the Musikhochschule in Wintertur and has been a member of the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zürich since 2001.
The Violin sonata No. 1 – Opus 34 was one of my first works after graduating. The first movement began its life as a poly-stylistic piano piece. I had heard a number of Alfred Schnittke’s works in concert and although at first not keen on his compositions I became more interested after I heard a performance of his piano quintet performed by his Russian friends – the difference was enlightening. During the late 80 early 90 I also witnessed Arvo Pärt on a number of occasions as well as György Ligeti and Sophia Gubaidulina. These composers did not influence my compositional output, but their music did resonate with my own artistic aims, which were decidedly not ‘Avant garde’. In my experience that particular bandwagon was rather too crowded, and my aim was to get close to the musical workface in order to encounter the living entity of music through the experience of inspiration and thus develop a working relationship with the ‘muse’. The poly-stylistic aim in this piece was eventually abandoned, and the dramatic aspect of the first movement was explored more fully with a cursory reference to Arvo Pärt along the way in the pizzicato (Fratres for violin and Piano) and the odd appearance of the BACH theme as a link to both J.S Bach and A. Schnittke (whose works are peppered with the BACH theme). The following 3 movements were composed in quick succession in the spring of 2001. This being my last year of employment at Emerson College I was getting ready to devote my time more fully to a life of composing and teaching music. The 2nd movement is lyrical, slow and rather thoughtful, allowing the musicians to pursue a feeling of mutual improvisation. The overlap between composition and improvisation was the focus of my exploration in a number of works at this time. The third movement is an attempt at a modern Scherzo. The ‘joke’ being that the violin and the piano are both given a theme to start with, that sounds like the violin tuning up in between movements! The tuning is treated as a musical theme and this additional slow movement is built upon this simple idea.
The final movement is brisk and light-hearted and contains a nod to Rudolf Steiner’s enigmatic challenge to musicians to find ‘the melody’ in the single note/tone. Here the violin holds on to the single tone while the piano tantalisingly has much more fun with some staccato rhythms and eventually gets the stubborn violin to relinquish its single note in order to join the piano. Later the piano holds on to the single note eventually forcing the violin to beg that they end together, happily enjoying their single notes in turn to finish in joyful unison!
The Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 Opus 64 was composed for Jonathan Trusscott. I was keen to explore the violin, piano combination further and sought to give voice to the world of unknown and unseen mythical beings.
The first movement rides on a short song for violin and voice to a text by R. M Rilke, “Death is great, we are these his laughing mouths. When we find ourselves immersed in life he dares to weep, immersed in us”. That the song can be like a seed, capable of becoming a greater entity was soon borne out by the composing of this serious and impassioned first movement.
The second movement is called ‘The Dance of the Rocks’. The underlying image is the dancing of the indwelling beings of the rocks that have their own particular way of moving and feeling dynamism and momentum.
In the final movement a strict theme is treated canonically, contrasting with the sense of abandonment of the music. The violin is given a good deal of solistic challenges before the mood turns more lugubrious and allows the piano to dwell on the thematic material, eventually giving way for the violin to become more vociferous before they join in a far more lyrical section with a brief BACH reference along the way before taking up the opening theme and closing the Sonata in a merry unison – again!
The ‘Twelve Violin Duos’ Opus 60 were partly composed as rather intimate works for voice and solo violin. My deep admiration for Bela Bartok prompted me to transcribe the songs for two violins and add already composed pieces for 2 violins to create a set. My love of counterpoint also comes to the fore here.
It was an amazing experience to witness Trusscott and Gaszi recording these 12 duos in St. Bartholomew’s church in Brighton at 4am with seagulls screaming over the amazing building causing nerves to fray! At the end of an exhausting recording session Josef proceeded to sit down in front of the altar, pluck a hair from his bow and wrap it around a string of the violin and produce the most haunting sound from his instrument. This, he told me, was a Hungarian Romany gypsy musical trick that he learned from his father.
Music Web International Review
Gregers Brinch (pronounced ‘brink’) will be a new name to most listeners. He is of Danish/American parents, was born in Denmark but lived much of his life in England. His music has been performed in England, Denmark, Germany and France. Like the notes with this issue, everything I can find on-line, including the ubiquitous Wikipedia, is sourced from his own writings. His recorded music as listed on Presto Classical is mostly on the Claudio label. His website notes some other recordings not listed by Presto. Brinch states as a sort of maxim that “the main component in any good music is attentive listening.” That being the case I have listened to the disc a few times and to some other music on-line including his Quartet No.1, a more gritty piece available on Navona Records NV5830 as well as in a different performance on YouTube. I hope to review the other two volumes soon.
The music on the present disc is easy to listen to and poses no challenges to the above-mentioned attentive listener. Though audibly a “contemporary composer”, Brinch is never tempted to sound aggressively modern and interested purchasers are unlikely to be put off by the mainly lyrical nature of the three works. The two sonatas display compositional skill but I would suspect are more satisfying to players than to audiences. Brinch does note that the “new and challenging” is still to be found whilst working within the bounds of what he describes as “universally experienced musical elements”, which I take to mean the conventions of 20th century tonal music. In that respect he might be compared to Robert Simpson who continued writing particularly string quartets and symphonies within the same tonal and contrapuntal framework, never trying to utilise the wilder extremes of serial or aleatoric composition. It might be noted that the decision did little to increase the number of performances of one of the UK’s best 20th century composers. The story of Malcolm Arnold is not so very different. It was interesting to read Brinch’s article Time and Music where he worries that contemporary composers have lost their audience by making music too challenging to enjoy. I might add that the above pair lost not so much their audience as their performance opportunities by not following the “modern” fashions of the time.
Brinch’s violin duos, which make up a little less than half this disc, are mostly arranged from songs originally scored for voice and violin and each has a title drawn from the words. Without those words the titles become simply labels. There are twelve duos and they provide a varied sequence to the listener, occasionally more impassioned but mainly gently lyrical. The composer’s notes do provide guidance as to his illustrative intentions in the main pieces, the sonatas, but one could have done with a bit more explanation of how the duo titles are reflected in the music and indeed why the disc is called ‘Spirals’.
This Blu-ray or its CD version will probably appeal more to musicians seeking new repertoire than to listeners at home. It may be others will hear more in the pieces than I did and of course there are two other volumes to explore which might alter one’s perspective. Those with high-end playback systems will certainly find this makes for a good demo disc, squeaky clean and spacious in typical Claudio style.
Dave Billinge (Music Web International)
Other Claudio releases by Gregers Brinch:
CC5889 Brinch Volume 1 /CD or DVD-Audio
CC5993 Kåverdalen/Brinch Volume 2 /CD or DVD-Audio