JOHANNES SCHÖLLHORN (b.1962): Clouds and Sky for Piano and Orchestra (Jan-Philip Schulze [piano], Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra; Peter Rundel), Rota for Contrabass Clarinet and String Quartet (Gareth Davis [contrabass clarinet], JACK Quartet), Red and Blue for Percussion Sextet (Ensemble S), A Self-Same Song for Contrabass Clarinet Solo (Davis).
Catalogue Number: 05O087
Description: Clouds and Sky, which evokes precisely what the title suggests as depicted in the Whistler painting on the cover, strangely unacknowledged in the English notes, represents a fascinating approach to transcription. The work is a greatly extended orchestration of Fauré's Twelfth Nocturne, played very slowly with a systematic doubling of durations of each measure throughout. The Fauré is still perfectly recognisable as the melodic and harmonic basis of the new work, but its harmonic ambiguity and sense of decentralised harmonic drift is further liberated from its tonal basis in Schöllhorn's version. A haze of dissonant clusters surrounds the melody line; phrases are broken up and passed antiphonally around the orchestra; dissonant harmonies in the original are emphasized rather than absorbed into their tonal context. The result is a texturally fluid, organic amplification of the atmosphere of the original. Rota is a lively, propulsively rhythmic dance with a rustic, folk-like feel, constructed from the pizzicato and col legno string sounds and contrabass clarinet slaps and snarls of the avant garde; an appealing contradiction and a thoroughly accessible piece. Red and Blue is a color field painting in sound; the abstract, ambiguously pitched percussion sounds are immersive, mysterious, attaining a perceived significance beyond their physical nature with prolonged exposure. A self-same song obscures Gershwin's A Foggy Day (in London Town) in a fog of rapidly blurred contrabass clarinet tones and sounds, the outlines of the original melody intermittently emerging from the swirling noise textures.