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ROLF BORCH Step Inside

Mark Adderley: Drawings 1
Sven Lyder Kahrs: Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern
Helmut Lachenmann: Dal Niente (Interieur III)
Claudio Ambrosini: Capriccio, detto I'ermafrodita

Magne Hegdal: Par IV
Aleatory Construction & Paysage
Eivind Buene: Sotto Voce

Rolf Borch, clarinet

New Albion ACD5046 2CDs

I guess that plucking strings (pizzicato) pre-dated bowing? And gradually over the centuries more and more "extended techniques" became normalised in instrumental playing.

Clarinettist Rolf Borch showcases exciting and innovative contemporary works for unaccompanied clarinet, his selection providing a valuable way into this area, the more so because his (specially priced) double CD is able to range so widely around what a modern clarinettist is expected to be able to do.

It is not so very long since split note 'chords' were thought of as freakish accidents, to be avoided by dint of practice. Ambrosini makes Borch's bass clarinet sound 'as much like a percussion instrument or synthesiser', with a catalogue of tone variations. Adderley's music gives 'an impression that it is inventing itself as it progresses'. Kars 'problematizes melancholy joy with a network of diverse elements'. Buene has his melody undulate between quarter tones and conventional notes. Redgate is all about enregy and virtuosity, drawing on free jazz and making extreme demands on the player.

Most radical is Lachenmann in his Dal Niente, which needs a silent ambience in which to hear his near inaudible sounds, punctuated by explosive fortissimi. He moves between concrete pitches with expressive control to depression of keys without sounding notes.

Immersion in these performances leads one into a broader perception of what instrumental music now embraces; one gradually becomes comfortable in this newish world and it sharpens ones perceptions and responses.

For a witty discussion in sound of the issues, you could do no better than listen to the first of Daryl Runswick's Overlays; strongly recommended

Peter Grahame Woolf