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Brian Ferneyhough



no time (at all)

La Chute d’Icare


Les Froissements d’Ailes de Gabriel


ELISION, cond. Franck Ollu and Jean Deroyer


Kairos 0013072KAI


Brian Ferneyhough hasn’t softened up. If anything some of his music, as recorded on this excellent disc, is more impenetrable than that he wrote in the 1970s. La Chute d’Icare, composed in 1988 and the earliest piece here, flies thrillingly out of the blocks with a correspondingly greater sense of abandon.


Impenetrability – or a composed resistance to casual penetration – remains the point, however, perhaps even more so now that the moment of radicalism that bore Unity Capsule or Transit has passed. In Les Froissement d’Ailes de Gabriel, for example, obscurity is put to poetic effect in the form of an unending conveyor belt of musical detail, too much for any human ear to organise and an evocation of Gabriel’s divine/cursed existence outside comprehensible human time. In the relentless solo violin part of Terrain one has the sensation of staring into a bottomless canyon of tonal, rhythmic and dynamic intricacies.


Central to achieving this level of detail are ELISION’s staggeringly precise performances: and the soloists Graeme Jennings (violin, Terrain, pictured performing Terrain at HCMF 2006), Carl Rosman (clarinet, La Chute d’Icare), Erkki Veltheim (viola, Incipits) and Geoffrey Morris (guitar, Les Froissements d’Ailes de Gabriel) deserve special mention, as does Ken Murray, Morris’s guitar duo partner in no time (at all). Every microsecond of these performances is packed with a superhuman level of sonic information.


More remarkable still is the fact that at no point does this high-density data stream collapse into an indiscriminate deluge. Ferneyhough’s writing is always organised carefully enough that every aspect of every line should be clearly audible, but it takes a beautifully performed and produced CD like this to utterly convince that this is the case. The world that results is one of sounds standing slightly too clearly apart from the comprehensible, yet ordinary world around them, highlighted with an unreal border, like film characters against a special effects green screen.


Tim Rutherford-Johnson

Picture, Brian Slater