ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Epigraphs
WORKS: Works for cello & piano
PERFORMER: Ketil Bjørnstad (piano), David Darling (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 543 159-2
The presentation, as always with ECM, is stylishly enigmatic – just a few photographs of the cellist David Darling and pianist Ketil Bjørnstad looking soulfully pensive, and the bare track titles. However the ECM web site tells us that the music, most of which is composed by Bjørnstad, with two tracks from Darling, was inspired by Renaissance music – indeed three tracks were actually written by late 16th-century composers, and one by Machaut, who lived a bit too early (1300-c1377) but the booklet notes date him at 1400-74, so maybe they thought he was Renaissance too. The ‘Epigraph’, which recurs three times, has a descending bass with a vaguely Renaissance feel, but on the whole the music is pensively melancholy in a way that evokes sometimes jazz, sometimes Grieg’s delicately sad modal folk idiom, but most of all New Age tranquillity. The thinness of the music allows the subtleties of the recording to shine through, and they are truly remarkable. Piano and bowed strings do not mix well in an acoustic setting, but here they’re made to blend and echo one another in a quite uncanny way. As an example of the sound engineer’s art, abetted by moody, sensitive performance, this CD is a masterpiece.