Stravinsky often insisted that a score is a text to be executed rather than interpreted; with his track record, he can have that one. However, successful composition (usually) does not exist in a box outside the performance. By involving the player in the compositional process, one can see their gestural capabilities, cultural bias, strengths, and challenges. More importantly, the "maestro" can draw upon the experience score pushers have spent exploring on paper for maybe one ten thousandth of the time the performer has; hopefully the player is also edified by thinking outside their normal practice requirements.
"The works on this disc present a story of my love affair with the flutes," writes composer Dominik Karski. "The love affair, however, could not have been so fruitful if I hadn't crossed paths one day with the two musicians from Flute o'clock," those being Ewa Liebchen (piccolo, flute, alto flute, bass flute, tam tam) and Rafal Jedrzejewski (flute, alto flute, bass flute and tam tam). In collaboration with Karski and harpist Zofia Dowgiatto Zynch (on the final track), GLIMMER gives us a metric of characteristics to qualify the blanket statements from the paragraph above. * Keep an open, tolerant mind when considering the following unproven rambles:
Q: Do the cues feel rushed, forced or late?
No. The music snakes in a baton-handing (as in track, not conducting) dance whose puzzle pieces always connect without misstep. The introductions and retreats move as appendages guided by a skilled marionettist.
Q: Does the performance feel organic as a whole (dependent, purposely interdependent, directional or purposely aimless)?
The music here is claustrophobic, like a secret clique in a treehouse whose members finish each other's sentences and eschew intruders. When Liebchen calls to Jedrzejewski (and vice versa), tone and mood are matched in an intimacy and trust that can only come from having worked together. (Yes, that's nonconcrete, but if you're reading reviews on this site, your critical mind is used to this sort of thing).
Q: Does the rhythm feel stiff?
Listening, one can sense Takemitsu's influence of inhale, exhale, inhale deeper, exhale a little harder. That is, there is no evidence of meter or race to get to the end of a cadence (does the score include meter?) Additionally, there is a moderate amount of pause that glues the loose structural boundaries. So, no: Even with the percussive "Streamforms," players seem to be feeling instructions on the page in favor of robotically tapping their toes to keep track of 5/8; an uniformed listener would be surprised to learn that these works are not improvised (I was).
Q: Does the piece utilize the potential of the instrument(s) or simply fall into habits?
Karski showcases the flute's attractive, sensual nature and relative violence: Drawn-out breathy lines and duets of shrill highs and resonant lows break under overblown bursts. However, Liebchen and Jedrzejewski also snake through a non-idiosyncratic world of harmonic combinations, flutter-tongue and rhythmic key clacks; the latter is the fresh-faced student composer's most overused, distracting-from-the-piece-to-give-the-piece-a-20th-Century-feel technique, but the ensemble's approach makes it interesting and non-pedantic here.
Judging by the frequency ,"feel" is mentioned the criterion above, this type of new age healer measurements would not hold up in a court of law, nor would it help anyone defend a dissertation. But this music is about feeling. Adding to the list, the test should ask, "Have you endured enough shitty performances to spot enthusiastic or lackluster interest on either side of the score?" I have, and regardless of the construction, I find GLIMMER to be a fantastic display from an effective partnership.
*I had no idea how many PhD students have examined "composer / performer collaboration" via thesis etc. See Zubin Kanga's thoughts for a less pithy consideration.
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