Erik Satie is an iconic avant-garde composer, ahead of his time, underestimated by teachers and rebuffed by critics. Posthumous revenge (if there is such a thing) has been sweet, as his music is some of the most often performed in a variety if contexts, including the stage, film and cabaret settings. This particular recording of Satie’s music takes an appropriately creative approach to rendering the quirky, mystical and ultimately uplifting music.
In the 18 tracks on the CD the Québec sextet Cordâme (a French pun on “strings-soul”/”body-soul”) perform many of the popular themes of this enigmatic, yet accessible composer. The musical pallet includes such pieces as the Gnossiennes, the Gymnopedies, as well as some less-often played compositions such Danses de travers, Rêverie de l’enfance de Pantagruel and Réflexions sur choses vues à droite et à gauche (sans lunettes).
The flow of rhythm that characterizes this set draws more from jazz, gypsy music or pop music than from the classical template, with a steady pulse emphasized by percussion and bass, underscored by the string duo of violin and cello, and punctuated by the percussive interplay between piano and harp. The result is graceful, beat-based expression of this diaphanous and at times surreal music, with the languorous harmonies and telescoping melodies being borne by the lilting rhythms.
The compositions, while respected in their forms and lyrical content, are laced with improvisations and structured in arrangements that color the pulses, while preserving the recognizable qualities that people love about Satie. This is not abstract avant-garde, nor romantic excess. It is restrained, yet expressive, with a resulting sweet tension that is mostly light and pleasant.
The title of this three-part work by Hungarian-Canadian composer Gyula Csapó — French and Persian for “Already? Where to?” — seems an appropriate epigraph for someone whose itinerary brought him from Budapest to Saskatchewan, via Paris and Buffalo and points in between.
Csapó completed studies in composition and music theory at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and the List Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest before going to Paris to study computer music and acoustics at IRCAM. In the 1980s, he came to the US to study with Morton Feldman, a composer whose work proved to be a significant influence. In the early 1990s, he moved to Canada and, after a period teaching composition at Princeton University, settled in Saskatoon, where he currently teaches composition and music theory.
In its scale and general profile, Déjà? Kojâ? takes some of Feldman’s approaches to arranging sounds and develops them in a way that is Csapó’s own. The work, composed between 2011 and 2016, is structured as a triptych of three roughly equal lengths. The sounds move slowly, as if there were carried along on tectonic plates approaching, receding, and grinding together in a sometimes overt, sometimes more submerged, dissonant fluctuation. Texture here is architecture, as Csapó layers sound masses into striated blocks whose fault lines divide the higher and lower registers. The differentiation of voices rather than classic counterpoint really does seem to be the structural key to this sometimes darkly opaque work; throughout it, the Quatuor Bozzini maintain a clarity of individual articulation, even in the densest passages.
Bernard Falaise started in groups like Miriodor, Klaxon Gueule, Les Projectionnistes, a.o. He wrote for the Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal (ECM), and other ensembles. Also for exhibitions, television, theatre and dance. As an active improviser he worked with a great variety of musicians for almost 25 years now. He released several solo projects. And his newest release is a next step on his path as a solo player and improviser, exemplifying once again Falaise is a very unique crossing the border-type of musician. Lézardes et zébrures is a fine collection of nine instrumentals. Most pieces start from acoustic guitar played in open tunings in a fingerpicking style. By using a freezer pedal and adding other instruments Falaise creates an inventive musical world. Weird constructions, but accessible and enjoyable at the same time. Combining instruments and sounds of acoustic and electronics origin.
The Bozzini Quartet started in 1999 and developed into a very profiled ensemble that concentrates on performing contemporary music. Music from the Montréal-scene on the one hand, but also from other parts of the world. Choosing works by well-known and lesser-known composers: Steve Reich, Howard Skempton, Malcolm Goldstein, John Cage, Claude Vivier, etc. Since 2004 they release most of their programs on their own Ambiances Magnetiques-associated Collection QB-label. This also counts for their latest work: Déjà? Kojâ?, a composition of Gyula Csapó. A release that illustrates that they are not afraid of making daring choice such as choosing for a composition by a less known composer. Listening to this work, it becomes evident they had a good reason for this. A profound and penetrating composition by Gyula Csapó. Csapó is a composer from Hungary where he studied at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and the List Ferenc Academy of Music. Later he studied with Morton Feldman and John Cage. He lives and work in Canada since 1990. Déjà? Kojâ?, composed between 2011 and 2016 is a massive work in three parts. Together taking a bit more than one hour. Throughout Csapó creates dissonant layers of music in this serious and static work. In the second part the music becomes a bit lighter by the use of pizzicato and glissandi. Also he alludes here to a well-known classical composition, that I am unable to identify. Not an easy work, but a very rewarding and satisfying experience, revealing an intriguing beauty for the concentrated listener.
Ida Toninato & Jennifer Thiessen are new to me. Thiessen is a violinist playing viola d’amore and viola on this duo effort. She performs classical and contemporary chamber music, as well as improvised music (Michel F Côté, Antoine Berthiaume, a.o.). With dance ensemble La La La Human Steps, she performed works by Gavin Bryars and Bang on a Can composer David Lang. Toninato is a saxophonist, composer and improviser, also from the Montréal scene, participating in Ensemble SuperMusique and Joker. She plays baritone saxophone on this album. Their duo effort is a work of intimate music focusing on the timbres and sound qualities of their instruments. They create beautiful deep resonating, spatial textures. The music develops slowly in a calm way, giving duration to the created interplay of sounds and timbres. Improvisation plays a big role here, but one could call it contemporary new music as well. They don’t just create a musical effect. But their investigation on sound and timbre is hold together by a strong musical vision. Because of the deep sonorities the music brings you in a reflective and meditative state. A very inspired and moving meeting by these two musicians and their instruments.