If 2021 was The Year of Modern Composition, what might 2022 have in store? Beside blazing fires, with pens and port, composers are penning new emotional notes. The seeds for many an inspiration are planted in the cold winter months. Modern composition can be as intimate as a solo performer or small ensemble, and as extravagant as an orchestra; the gestures may be subtle or grand. Please remember to support your local orchestras and concert halls this season; as we wait for the doors to reopen, here are some winter sounds to keep us warm.
Our cover image is taken from the article “Some Winter Tips for You and Your Piano” in David Crombie’s World Piano News.
Rich’s Pick: Sven Helbig, Skills (Modern Recordings, February)
The combination of orchestral and electronic elements is a recurring theme in our winter slate. This is never more apparent than in “Repetition,” where three French horns, a tuba and a string quartet meet the crunchy rhythms of Surachai. The album is a celebration of “human crafts and innovation,” and comes with a handmade cover from Matthias Köhler.
Making music “together but apart,” Roedelius & Story recorded the parts of Four Hands on the same grand piano. This may be hard to replicate in concert, where we expect they will use two. One piece is dedicated to the late Harold Budd. (Erased Tapes, January 28). A few originals, a few covers and a few dedications round out Matias Picard‘s jazzy Live at the Museum, which pays tribute to the pianist’s influences while continuing to blaze a path of its own (Outside In Music, January 28). Here’s an interesting idea: three tracks on three pianos played at three speeds, each embedded in the other tracks. The concept is brought to life on Tres Pianos, from Androoval ([MoM, January 14). We’re fascinated by the fluid playing of Hania Rani, and on January 28, her incredibly popular Live from Studio S2 (Complete Session) (three million views to date!) will be unveiled on vinyl, including “Glass” and “Hawaii Oslo” (Gondwana Records).
How did Luke Howard make yet another gorgeous, cinematic album? This time the composer called on the aid of the Budapest Art Orchestra (last heard on Rutger Hoedemaekers’ The Age of Oddities) and also invited Ben Lukas Boysen to contribute to one track, leaving nothing to chance. All Of Us is out March 11 on Mercury KX. Jean-Michel Blais‘ Aubades is joyful and energetic, a counterbalance to the winter’s stark landscapes and sluggish pace. Some pieces may even inspire dancing (Mercury KX, February 4).
Federico Albanese‘s Before and Now Seems Infinite is inspired by Proust, the ephemeral nature of memory, and the composer’s father, remembered on The Quiet Man. Guest singers Marika Hackman and Ghostpoet temporarily turn the timbre to avant pop (Mercury KX, February 25). Rob Burger starts with piano and expands to pedal steel, cello and synth, a natural progression for a film composer known for his electronic works. Marching With Feathers is released February 11 on Western Vinyl. Synth and drums round out the timbre of Entanglement, whose title fits the theme of connection. Christof R. Davis‘ album invites listeners to consider their place in the world and the impact they have on the earth (January 28). Gifts From Crows‘ Stories in Slow Light is a collaboration with photographer Helena Whitten, whose long exposure images receive an instrumental score. A third angle is added through interpretive dance, as seen below (February 25).
Orchestral and More
One of the season’s most elaborate releases comes from Eric Nathan, whose long-term project Missing Words has finally come to completion. Inspired by Ben Schott’s Schottenfreude, the six-part series for fifteen players investigates words and concepts present in the German language, but not in English. Perhaps the most amusing: “New Car Smell,” for which the composer suggests a 47-letter word (New Focus, January 21). Andrzej Pietrewicz‘s #5 is a follow up to last year’s #4: another bright-toned work, nine movements in total. The string lines often veer into abstraction, only to return in time to let the sun shine through (January 15).
Two string quartets grace Éclat and “meet electronica in space.” Labelle‘s album was first listed for fall, but has jumped into a new year, where its positive vibes are even more essential (InFiné, January 14). Despite its romantic title, Benedikt Schiefer‘s debut album Universal Kiss is a dark-toned work. The strings are dramatic throughout, the piano powerful. On “Sturm Und Drang,” an electronic sheen reflects the battle of man v. machine (February 11). Woodwind ensemble is joined by pump organ, cello and more on Vilhelm Bromander‘s aurora, an expansion of sounds for the Swedish bass player (Warm Winters Ltd., January 14).
“In Devotion” is the first taste of Disassembler‘s A Wave from a Shore, and makes a stunning start. The duo is comprised of Christopher Royal King (This Will Destroy You) and Christopher Tignor (Slow Six, Wires Under Tension). Their experience and depth are both evident in this aching track, and we can’t wait to hear the rest (Western Vinyl, March 11).
Irish folk meets classical harp on The Bend In the Light, which includes a mix of traditional covers and world premieres. Ellen Gibling‘s set is described as “dance music for listening,” incorporating jigs and polkas along the way (March 4). Violinist Connor Armbruster releases the faith and weather-based violin album Masses on January 28, a somber accompaniment to the starker months that builds gently toward tracks of hope (Dear Life).