Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Budapest Music Center
WORKS: Over the Face of the Deep
PERFORMER: Various singers & instrumentalists
One of the drawbacks of reviewing contemporary music is that for every transcendent experience you can end up with at least three or four which are either baffling or just downright unpleasant. It isn’t long before Hungarian composer Barnabás Dukay’s Over the Face of the Deep becomes both. Granted, it starts quite effectively, with an elegiac ‘instrumental motet’ – pleasantly astringent tonal harmonies played in a sustained hush by four tremolando violas. Whether simply changing the instrumental/vocal colour is enough to justify three full-scale repetitions of this five-minute piece is another matter entirely. And between these come far longer ordeals: densely dissonant movements, with little rhythmic, melodic or textural interest, whose poetic titles are flatly contradicted by their musical substance. If this review sounds a trifle tetchy, imagine listening to a piece that calls itself ‘Incandescence in the fires’, but which sounds like 12 minutes of persistent low-level toothache, and you might begin to understand why. Between these movements Dukay places a series of silent tracks of varying lengths (from about ten seconds to a minute and a half); those – I admit – I did enjoy. Stephen Johnson