KNUT VAAGE (b.1961): Bumerang for String Quartet (Ricardo Odriozola, Mara Haugen [violins], Ingrid Rugesæter Eriksen [viola], Ragbhild Sannes [cello]), Rabalder for Piano (Einar Røttingen), Svev for Piano Trio (Valen Trio).
Catalogue Number: 07W064
Label: LAWO Classics
Description: Three recent works by the ever-inventive composer, constantly experimenting yet invariably retaining enough familiarity to remain thoroughly approachable. The composer is fond of extreme contrasts - noise textures and extended techniques versus insistently tonal material that almost begins to resemble rock music; abrupt, loud attacks versus glacial stillness - but his assertively modern techniques are seldom used to aggressive or alienating ends; such violence as exists in the music seems more calculated to counterpoint the reposeful or humorous, playful, or gleefully experimental, nature of most of the rest. The quartet "Boomerang" consists of contrasting passages that return, though never following the same path, hence the title. The work is full of boisterous energy, and unfocused yet strenuous effort, interrupted by what sound like periods of sleepy breathing; an odd, yet oddly genial and appealing use of the quartet medium. "Uproar" for solo piano makes extensive use of mechanistic, percussive extended techniques; direct contact or objects on the strings, the piano turned into a thunderous percussion instrument, piercing clusters, - punctuated by episodes of simple consonant chords (in one especially disorienting but beautiful passage, accompanied by a gentle crepitation - fingernails stroking strings), and lengthy pauses. The work gradually subsides into a softly crepuscular final section. This piece, and Svev, were part of the "(Un-)settling sites and styles: performers in search of new expressive means” project, which probably casts some light on what the composer is up to. Svev, which implies various forms of floating or weightlessness, combines all the sonic textural innovations of the other works, and more. It consists of a series of whirring, clicking little mechanisms, like components of a precision-engineered Rube Goldberg machine. These include tremolo glissandi and all manner of unorthodox bowing techniques for the string instruments, and much contact on the strings of the piano, passages of subtle little sounds like eddying air currents or sycamore seeds twirling and drifting, episodes of total stasis and others of insistent motoric drive. Four times, a sequence of notes is sounded pointillistically, and is then 'shadowed' by passages of 'extended' timbres. Finally the 'rows' are played sequentially, then repeated slowly and quietly by the strings, and the piece gradually evaporates into ethereal harmonics and delicate strumming of the piano strings.