The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Fox: für Johannes Kepler; BLANK; Trümmermusik: A Berlin Diary 1947; Generic Composition #8; Natural Science; Sol-Fa Canon for Aldo Clementi
Weird and wonderful sounds for strings and electronics
Saturday, 26 May 2012
Trio Scordatura, Scott McLaughlin (electric guitar)
Métier MSV 28526
As its name might suggest, the Amsterdam-based Trio Scordatura specialises in music that employs unusual and often ear-tweaking tuning systems, using the startling sound combination of voice (doubling violin), viola and Midi keyboard. If that sounds forbiddingly complex, don’t be put off. This rewarding disc of music by the contemporary British composer Christopher Fox (b.1955), currently professor of music at Brunel University, brings a welcome vividness and transparency to the strange, microtonal world it inhabits, with pieces that are thoroughly approachable and exceptionally well played.
BLANK, for violin, viola and keyboard, is the standout, its somewhat raucous succession of slowly changing chords, at varying degrees of being out of tune with each other, producing striking ‘beating’ effects. Violinist Alfrun Schmid and viola player Elisabeth Smalt are astonishingly precise in their microtonal intonation, and their thin yet insistent sounds blend with those of the keyboard to produce music that’s unceasingly fascinating. Smalt’s clear, transparent playing is again in evidence in für Johannes Kepler, inspired by the music of the spheres, and she brings a fractured folksiness to the broad viola melodies of Trümmermusik. In Natural Science, a setting of fragments of verse by Ian Duhig for speaker and viola, Smalt begins with a fragile, hushed sound that moves to grander gestures as the poetry becomes more shocking. The recording is close and intimate – necessary to pick out the smallest details of the playing – yet remarkably warm and clean.
From the May 2012 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.