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Three CDs you wouldn't have wanted to miss in 2018

The end of the year is approaching. So the lists fly around our ears again with 'most beautiful', 'best', 'most unforgettable', 'most moving'... fill in the blanks. Putting together top-shelves is actually a typical man thingbut come on, I'm not that bad. Herewith three CDs you wouldn't have wanted to miss this year - in no particular order, anyway.

Louise Farrenc: Variations for Piano
Biliana Tzinlikova, piano

Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) was a contemporary of greats like Chopin, Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, and Robert and Clara Schumann. Unlike Fanny and Clara, no obstacles were placed in her way as a composer. Indeed, at her 17e she married a music publisher who greatly encouraged her and published her compositions.

As a concert pianist, incidentally, she did face discrimination when she became a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire. She was only allowed to teach girls and was paid less than her male colleagues. - She successfully challenged the latter. Her piano etudes were even officially used as teaching material, including in teaching gentlemen.

Understandably so, as Farrenc's piano music is powerful and virtuosic, without being epathetic. Bulgarian Biliana Tzinlikova plays four of her most successful works. For the Variations brillantes Farrenc was inspired by a cavatina from the opera Anna Bolena by Donizetti. Dramatic trills and lyrical melodies are interspersed with virtuoso waterfalls of notes.

The Air russe varié is more contemplative in nature and was praised by Robert Schumann for its "romantic slant". In Grand variations on a Theme by Count Gallenberg we hear reminiscences of Chopin. The last piece on the CD also consists of variations on an opera theme, this time by George Onslow. A folk tune sounds at times dansant then resolute and boisterous, like the pumping 'alla polacca'. Tzinlikova has a firm touch and her matter-of-fact tone suits Farrenc's confident speeches perfectly.
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The Collectors
Konstantyn Napolov & Eke Simons, percussion/piano

Jan-Peter de Graaff: The Bells of St Clement's
Yannis Kyriakides: Once there was
Moritz Eggert: The Collectors

I heard the first three pieces from this CD at the recent festival November Music. Impressive how Konstantyn Napolov & Eke Simons manage to hit a completely different mood in each composition. The Bells of St Clement's from Jan-Peter de Graaff is inspired by the English nursery rhyme 'Oranges and Lemons'. In the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell represents the notion that freedom in a totalitarian state means another form of oppression.

The piece opens with lovely bells and soft piano chords. In the second movement, beautiful harmonies are 'pounded away' by heavy thuds on the percussion. In the concluding movement, the innocent tinkling returns. However, this is gradually smothered in obsessively chattering stones and a pounding piano.

Yannis Kyriakides also showed in Once there was inspired by children's stories. Especially how there were often dark, political/social messages hidden in them. Besides percussion and piano, Kyriakides also uses tape recordings and images - which are obviously omitted on CD.

Kyriakides sampled seemingly innocent lines from 'Oranges and Lemons' accompanying a man on his way to his execution. A slowly slowing and distorting female voice utters them. 'Here comes a candle to light you to bed/ And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!' Accompanied by windswept piano loops and buzzing cymbals, Kyriakides creates an ominous atmosphere.

The CD is named after with the most beautiful piece, The Collectors from Moritz Eggert. In the CD booklet, he says he is an obsessive collector, just like his father and grandfather. The latter even took up so much space with his books that his wife left him. Eggert himself collects books, whisky, board games and more - "it's terrible". He sees a similarity with composing. 'As composers, we are not inventors creating something totally new. No, we draw from the immense library of music stored in our heads.' And right he is, of course.

The way Eggert connects to existing music makes his work fresh and accessible. He gives familiar harmonies and melodies an inventive twist, giving them a life of their own. Joy of playing and richness of sound vie for precedence; there is often something to laugh about. Repetitive patterns, Debussyian impressionism and swinging rhythms are spiced up with deliberately cocky vocal lines and dashing glissandi on marimba.

Quiet passages are punctuated with screeching sounds of plastic squeeze bugs and toy whistles. By the last movement, it is hard to stay still. A rousing, Reich-like patter of the piano is coloured with warm sounds of bronze and wooden percussion instruments. Again, the pianist's cries and comical toy sounds conjure a smile on your lips. - Hello, who is still afraid of this modern music?
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Clarence Barlow: musica algorithmica
Modelo62; Ensemble Köln; Iceland Symphony Orchestra; SWR Radio Orchester Baden-Baden

The Hague-based ensemble Modelo62 has been dedicated to forgotten or neglected composers since its inception. Earlier this year, for instance, they dedicated a project to the painting-inspired music of Sedje Hémon. Now the musicians are breaking a lance for the little-known British/German composer Clarence Barlow here in the country.

Born in India as a member of the British minority group, he studied both in Calcutta, London and Cologne. There he founded Musik und Informatik Köln in 1986. He taught computer music in Darmstadt and at the Musikhochschule in Cologne. In addition, he was artistic director of the Institute of Sonology at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.

But despite his love of electronics, Barlow prefers the pure sound of physical instruments. However, computers do play a central role in his work. He uses it to generate the structures of his works, hence the term 'musica algorithmica'. This sounds more cerebral than it is. Like Eggert, Barlow takes a playful approach to the musical tradition and takes a stab at the post-war avant-garde.

Thus, we hear in Sachets des ciseaux insatiables a kind of atonal version of Michelle by The Beatles. In Septima de facto clashes an upbeat boogie-woogie piano with an increasing cacophony of the other instruments. Eventually, the piano too goes completely wild. The frantic atmosphere recalls the contrarian music of Charles Ives. Modelo62 defends this music with commitment and obvious pleasure. On a second CD, three other ensembles defend Barlow's idiosyncratic sound world.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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