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Valerio Sannicandro - Chamber Music
repercussio - le nuove forme - renaissance pour te sauver de l'Ombre

e-mex neue musik ensemble/ V. Sannicandro, conductor

Telos Music Records TLS105 (2006)

A fascinating portrait album, the presentation of the music benefiting from superb recording quality. Sounds are presented with crystal clarity, allowing the listener to become fully immersed in Sannicandro's detailed and finely-sculpted sound-world.

The sleeve-notes are highly descriptive; too esoteric for the layman, but deliberately so. Sannicandro's music is presented here as unashamedly 'serious', not pretending to be approachable to the inexperienced contemporary listener (though perhaps it might be.)

For contemporary music fans his style is well worth investigating, being preoccupied with  translating the visual sensation of reflection in water into aural forms. Hence, sounds are echoed and refracted through imaginative instrumentation and use of extended techniques, resulting in colourful and at times ravishingly beautiful textures. There is also much use of klangenfarbenmelodie.

IRadio (2002) - A repeated cello 'E' acts as a pivot around which musical events occur. A wonderful section begins at 2 minutes 20 seconds,  when a rhythm presented on the cello is then echoed by the flute - the timbral qualities of the instruments producing the illusion of a mirror. Processes similar to this are found throughout the album - on repeated listening ever more subtle examples can be picked out.

repercussio (2002) is more sparse and pointillistic in its dialogues. A stock of gestures are repeated throughout the piece, combined in different ways using a form of mosaic technique. The piano part of the last 40 seconds reminds me strongly of Dai Fujikura's Sleeping Ashes, written in the same year, (though the pieces in their entireties are very different.)

enfasi cobalto (2001/2003) is instantly misterioso, the wind instruments providing drones while other groups interrupt. There are snippets of unexpectedly lyrical duets, which come as a surprise after the experience of the first two tracks. (Listening to this composition in the garden on a Sunday morning, headphones plugged into the laptop, was a glorious experience.) A quite unexpected entrance of tonality occurs just after a minute, as F major arpeggios ripple in the piano. The juxtaposition of tonality and atonality is an effect used by many composers, but Sannicandro's outlook is quite individual. (For further explanation/discussion of the ramifications of this, see articles in the Grove on 'neo-romanticism' and 'borrowing', I wouldn't like to speculate as to where he stands on the issue.) More klangenfarbenmelodie occurs later on, as piano tones dissolve into identical pitches on the vibraphone - again, showcasing an excellent piano technician and CD production.

To my ears, Sannicandro's music is centred around the experience of the moment, relishing colour, timbre and the mercurial emotions generated by immediate successions of events. While enjoying his sound-world, I must nevertheless confide in the reader that I experience no feeling of narrative sweep... whether this is a problem or not is an entirely personal matter. There is development of material, most certainly, but structure is concerned with the transformation of sounds from one state to the next, not with the sculpting of large-scale structural progressions conveying obvious narrative purpose. It is more meditative than action-orientated.

le nuove forme (2000) - beginning with a high, clustered/repeated-note piano gesture, it seems at first to be an extension of enfasi cobalto (it becomes evident a few seconds later that this is evidently not the case!) In this composition the register of the piano is used to great effect, a duet between bass and treble later being joined by a middle voice, with short stabs of accompanying material as well. A very successful example of polyphony for solo piano (that is, a polyphony of materials, not Bachian contrapuntal lines,) here is an up-to-date comment on Varese's concept of the 'counterpoint of masses'. le nuove forme has a great feeling of sweep, the listener being carried along from one climax to the next. Credit must be given to Martin von der Heydt for such an exciting performance. I would love to see it live, as the piece has obvious potential for visual theatre.

renaissance (2000) - another start with high piano clusters, the CD beginning to sound like variations on a theme, the variation this time being a muted, non-vibrato, lonely, plaintive, violin line. The use of low stopped notes on the piano together with high violin notes is very effective in producing a feeling of expanse. But do repeated notes on the piano echo/mirror violin harmonics? I suppose that would depend on the level of 'refraction' between them! Overall an interesting exploration of possible combinations and juxtapositions of violin and piano timbres.

pour te sauver de l'Ombre (2002) - you guessed it, beginning with high piano clusters - now echoed by ricochet violin and clarinet outbursts. Again, some very effective writing, the clarinet and piano in rhythmic unison successfully blending tone colours, resulting in the impression of one instrument (another excellent example of this just after 8 minutes in.) With a busier texture than the earlier pieces on this CD, my mind became intensely occupied with the rhythmical play - syncopation and manipulation of hyper-rhythm.  It is probably my favourite piece on the disc. Whereas enfasi cobalto surprised with it's sudden F major arpeggios, pour te sauver de l'Ombre suddenly employs a classical rhythmical motif in the piano -  even more hidden meaning for the mind to contemplate.

I look forward to investigating this CD further.

Aleks Szram

Valerio Sannicandro's Llanto featuring Peter Veale, oboe, is included in a highly recommendable CD of contemporaary trumpet music (mostly solos): Marco Blaauw’s HOT; BVHaast! <http://www.bvhaast.nl> He is also featured on an absorbing CD of Dialogues for flute and percussion recently reviewed [Editor]