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Thomas Larcher: Madhares

Album Summary

>Larcher, Thomas : Böse Zellen, for piano & orchestra
>Larcher, Thomas : Still, for viola & chamber orchestra
>Larcher, Thomas : Madhares, String Quartet no 3
Performers Conductor Ensemble
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Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This is the third ECM release dedicated to new works by Austrian composer Thomas Larcher (born 1963) presenting mostly orchestral pieces. Larcher’s music is full of infectious rhythmic energy, imbued by gripping sonic ideas. The composer reenacts traditional musical forms such as the solo concerto or the string quartet with a great sense of drama and juxtaposes tonal harmony and avantgardistic compositional technique in original ways.

Notes & Reviews:

The music of Austrian composer Thomas Larcher defies easy categorization. He is clearly an adherent of the tenets of European modernism, but he is more overtly concerned with touching the emotions of his listeners than some of his contemporaries. He has written, "My music is communicative: it challenges the attentive listener but is meant to be readily intelligible in concert," and that assessment is borne out, with varying degrees of clarity, in the music on this disc. At its most expressive, as in the passionate Still, for viola and chamber orchestra, performed by the soulful Kim Kashkashian, his music is unambiguously direct and emotionally gripping. Böse Zellen (Malign Cells), a four-movement work for piano and orchestra, begins with an uncompromising severity so that the occasional introduction of familiar elements, such as a simple triad, take on a surprising emotional significance, but by the final movement (a familiar pattern in Larcher's work) the music blossoms into an austere luminosity not unlike that of Pärt or Silvestrov. He describes his third string quartet, Madhares, as evoking the White Mountains of Crete, and the work conjures up imagery of light, purity, and distant mystery. The moments where unencumbered tonal clarity breaks through resonate with a serene melancholy and are a reminder that, for all his sophistication, Larcher can write with a disarming, transparent simplicity. The performances are all superb: compelling, urgent, and utterly committed. Dennis Russell Davies leads the Münchener Kammerorchester in accompanying Kashkashian and pianist Till Fellner, and Quatuor Diotima performs Madhares with complete assurance. ECM's sound is characteristically immaculate and lively.~Stephen Eddins



Reviews

A Distinctive and Original Voice
Till Fellner delivers an impressive performance of Böse Zellen, one of the most interesting piano concertos of recent years. The other works are in a similar vien, and all are well played. Read the full review at: http://www.classical-cd-reviews.com/2010/06/larcher-madhares.html
Submitted on 06/23/10 by Gavin Dixon 
Alex Ross says this
At the beginning of Thomas Larcher’s 2007 piano concerto “Böse Zellen,” or “Malignant Cells”—the first work on an ECM disk devoted to the forty-six-year-old Austrian composer—the voice of the piano is stifled. Larcher asks for the instrument to be altered in the style of John Cage, with rubber wedges inserted between the lower strings and gaffer tape applied to the upper register. The timbres that result from these operations lack the twinkling exoticism of Cage’s prepared-piano music: the piano makes a sullen, thudding sound, as if trapped behind Plexiglas. It sounds more like a machine, not less. At the beginning, the piano presents stark chords in and around E minor, and a steel ball is rolled on the strings to produce a metallic glissando, like that of a slide guitar. Over four movements, the music lurches between hectic orchestral noises and plaintive tonal harmonies, until, in a climactic passage, the wedges are removed, the tape is ripped off the strings, and the piano is allowed to sing out fully. The ending is hauntingly spare, with major and minor chords in alternation. Larcher is an unpredictable, freethinking composer, who has set aside the modernist strictures that have long governed Central European music. He plunges into tonal spheres without irony or theoretical circumspection. In the viola concerto “Still,” which also appears on the ECM disk, the musical language occasionally verges on the otherworldly simplicity of Arvo Pärt, who is a mainstay of the label. “Madhares,” for string quartet, journeys from harsh, scratchy textures to a whispery C-major sweetness. The downside of this extreme stylistic versatility is a haphazard sense of structure. “Still” is the weakest piece on the compilation, arresting gestures in search of a narrative; “Madhares,” too, has a fitful feel. But “Böse Zellen” is riveting from start to finish—a sweat-inducing drama in instrumental form. All the works receive immaculate, strongly felt performances, from the pianist Till Fellner, the violist Kim Kashkashian, the Diotima Quartet, and the Munich Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Dennis Russell Davies.
Submitted on 08/12/10 by bj 
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Works Details

>Larcher, Thomas : Böse Zellen, for piano & orchestra
  • Performers: Till Fellner (Piano); Quatuor Diotima
  • Conductor: Dennis Davies
  • Running Time: 2 min. 2 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 2006-2007

>Larcher, Thomas : Still, for viola & chamber orchestra
  • Performers: Kim Kashkashian (Viola); Thomas Larcher (Piano); Quatuor Diotima
  • Conductor: Dennis Davies
  • Running Time: 23 min. 57 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 2002

>Larcher, Thomas : Madhares, String Quartet no 3
  • Performer: Quatuor Diotima
  • Running Time: 21 min. 14 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2006-2007