Christoph Berg | Henning Schmiedt ~ Bei

Bei is improvised music that sounds composed; complex music that sounds simple; serious music that sounds fun.  The duo of Christoph Berg (violin) and Henning Schmiedt (piano) confounds at every turn: pleasantly, peacefully, precociously.

Schmiedt has been recording for 20 years, and has preserved a feeling of playful innocence throughout this time, as apparent in the final notes of “hinein, hinaus?” (“into, out?”) and the ebullient midsection of “bis über beide ohren!” (“up over both ears!”).  One can imagine artists painting to this music, poppets dancing, roses exchanged at the county fair.  But there’s also balance.  Berg (otherwise known as Field Rotation) has recorded some very somber music over the years, and his violin contributes an undercurrent of seriousness, especially when the ivories cool down and the notes thin out.  The surprise is how often one performer pulls the other along.  In these improvisations, the lead often switches.  The piano grows sedate while the violin begins to soar.  Caught in each other’s drafts, the performers respond to each other with an instinctive flair.  At certain points, they seem to say, “enough sadness, it’s time to frolic!”  At others, “enough play, let us be serious for a while.”  The result is a rich album that flows from emotion to emotion, high to low and back again, a pas de deux of color and timbre akin to the dual-toned cover.

By “ritornelle”, the mood has turned romantic.  This album centerpiece seems to bear all of the drama of the preceding tracks on its heavy shoulders. One imagines a lover walking away, turning back, seeing the other has gone.  Then the rain begins to fall.  After this, the mood just has to recover; otherwise, it’s too much for the heart to bear.  And recover it does, as “dort!” (“there!”) dusts itself off and takes cover in a bar, where “taumeln wie flocken” (“stagger like flakes”) finds flirtation and the promise of new love.  By the bonus track “haschen” (“bunny”), hints of innocence have returned ~ just in time for the album’s Easter release!  The performers practice for their dance around the May Pole; the storms have subsided, and spring has arrived, blooming in earth and heart alike.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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