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Thomas Larcher at Wigmore Hall

A contemporary composer/pianist of unquestionable significance, but hard to "place" and assess (see CD review below).

How his pieces proceed is always unpreditable, but they commence with material and method to seize the attention. The Diotima Quartet amply confirmed my keenness to hear them live after experienceing their Madhares on disc; we learnt about it on the Saturday morning was that it has nothing to do with madness or with hares...

Larcher's own gnomic notes are more about what his music isn't, than at all helpful guides to listeners.

But that morning with concert was quite wonderful; two of Larcher's pieces for string quartet, IXXU & Madhares; strange, beautiful and compelling. They were separated by Debussy's quartet, which none of us few early risers there had come to hear it again; but the Diotimas gave a performance of such sonic irridescence as to amaze us anew with its young composer's extraordinary originality.

After lunch, a tougher all-Larcher concert, with the composer at and sometimes inside the piano. The lengthy piano trio Kraken is uncompromising and stark in its persistent "disintegrating and reassembling of a furious cliff-hanging minor chord" [Ivan Hewett in The Telegraph].

For My illness is the Medicine I Need, a piece about psychiatric hospital patients' life with texts from a Benetton magazine (!), Larcher was joined by international string players and a singer who had to voice strange aphorisms, such as "The monotony here kills you - - when people ask me the time it's almost a coversation; I think people are brought here to be killed"...
[Do see an excellent performance of it on YouTube] and also an interview at his home amongst the mountains]

I suggested to Thomas Larcher that his music is so very "physical" that a DVD drawn from this full day's event - at which microphones were in evidence - is desirable; he confirmed, with apparent regret, that one is unlikely. [His recording company ECM doesn't yet go in for DVDs...]

So let's hope for more videos on YouTube, an ever increasingly important facility!

Peter Grahame Woolf

See Anna Picard's perceptive Independent on Sunday review of this event and of the ENO Eugene Onegin - perceptive because her opinions of those disparate events concur with mine!



Larcher Böse Zellen; Still & Madhares on CD

Till Fellner: prepared-piano; Kim Kashkashian: viola;
Diotima Quartet; Münchener Kammerorchester/ Dennis Russell Davies

ECM New Series 2111

Here is a disc which I urge you to explore and recommend for purchase, but to describe it is nearly impossible.

Manfred Eicher of ECM has championed pianist/composer Thomas Larcher for nearly a decade; the chosen cover image is typically evocative, and his chosen liner notes writer is inclined to the poetic and elliptical.

Help is at hand however, and to assist readers I am content to defer to other, sometimes halting writings and, best of all, to urge you to watch an interview (in English) with the composer himself, and you can hear the very beautiful and evocative "Madhares" on YouTube.

Having admired his playing of Schubert and Schönberg, I wrote after a piano festival in Lucerne, at which he juxtaposed Schubert with Rebecca Saunders: "May a critic from London venture impertinently to suggest that Michael Haefliger and his team could do well to involve Pierre Aimard and Larcher in discussions of how to make the main 'classical' Piano festival catch up with Lucerne Summer".

I endorse the enthusiasm of the reviews linked below.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Further links: http://player.ecmrecords.com/larcher

and http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/may/06/thomas-larcher-bose-zellen-review

- - a truly refreshing musical voice for modern times, music which insinuates itself on your attention by stealth; the door to the sound world of each of these pieces 'opens slowly and carefully (crescendo dal niente) and withdraws to leave us in a new, different stillness' [Scotsman].



Henri Dutilleux - music for piano(s)

Petit air à dormer debout
Piano Sonata
Au gré des ondes I. Prélude en berceuse & III. Improvisation
Blackbird Tous les chemins ... mènent à Rome
Figures de résonances with Ya-Fei Chuang (piano)
Trois Preludes
Au gré des ondes

Robert Levin (piano)

ECM New Series 2105

This disc was a labour of love and admiration by Robert Levin, nowadays perhaps better known as a fortepianist?

Levin met Dutilleux in 1979, when they shared composition teaching at the American Conservatoire at Fontainbleau, and this recording is a testament to their friendship.

It is marked by the precision of Dutilleux's fastidious compositions (a small oeuvre) realised to perfection in these Radio Svizzera recordings made in Lugano, 2008. Everything he wrote was refined and perfected, and it makes for marvellous listening. Resonances within the piano are crucial and are ideally conveyed in these performances. Only the Sonata will be known to most readers; it is given with a nonchalant virtuosity which suits it ideally. Levin's notes are full and informative; he persuaded Dutilleux to allow him to finish with, as a pendant, a group of youthful works written for the radio. The heart of the disc is the group of Résonances and Figures de résonances (for two pianos) and the substantial preludes of the 70s-80s.

A disc to cherish.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Photo: Thomas Hammje