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Minimal & dangerously liminal: Jakob Ullmann – fremde zeit addendum 4

Posted on by Simon Cummings in CD reviews | 2 Comments

Despite the fact that writing about amazing music is such an unalloyed pleasure, there are times—many more times than i would care to admit—when the music skitters away, becoming elusive when confronted by one’s attempts to speak of it. Perhaps there’s no dishonour in being confounded by glory, but the frustration has never been more acute than when trying to write about the music of Jakob Ullmann. Including the outstanding fremde zeit addendum 3CD boxset of his music near the top of my 2012 Best Albums list wasn’t just an act of fitting celebration but also of defeat; the bland paragraph i wrote to accompany its entry came after umpteen doomed attempts at something more substantial earlier in the year. So when the Edition RZ label recently sent me their latest release of his music, fremde zeit addendum 4, it seemed only fitting to try again.

For anyone unacquainted with Ullmann’s music, there are equivalent points of entry to be found in any of the releases Edition RZ has put out over the last few years, A Catalogue of Sounds, voice, books and FIRE 3, the aforementioned boxset as well as this new CD. It’s worth mentioning that Edition RZ—one of the most forward-looking of labels in any case—has been essentially a lone advocate where Ullmann is concerned; considering how many of his works remain unperformed & recorded, other labels would be wise, finally, to catch on. For there is something truly extraordinary going on in Jakob Ullmann’s music, music that positions itself in a place that is both minimal & dangerously liminal. Read more

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Jehan Alain – Trois Danses

Posted on by Simon Cummings in 20th Century, Commemorations | 2 Comments

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Jehan Alain, one of the most interesting & enigmatic French composers of the first half of the twentieth century. To me, Alain’s unique musical sensibility draws comparison with two other composers; the free-spirited, swirling exoticism & spontaneous evocations of feeling suggest Alexander Scriabin, while the introspective, at times almost mystical nature of the music (particularly in his sense of pacing & remarkable use of melody) brings to mind the deep intensity of Alain’s great contemporary, Charles Tournemire. Alain has been on my mind a great deal lately, particularly as i’ve recently finished work on a lengthy electronic piece composed in Alain’s memory. Titled Night Liminal, it’ll be released on CD in the not-too-distant future; more information about that soon. But to commemorate today, here’s a recording of one of Alain’s most fascinating compositions, the Trois Danses, originally composed for piano in 1937, when Alain was 26 years old, & arranged for organ two years later. Alain also began making an orchestral arrangement of the work but the manuscript was famously sucked from the carriage of a moving train, & tragically never recovered. Read more

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