Xenakis, Penderecki, Hindemith, N¿rgŒrd, Halffter

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COMPOSERS: Halffter,Hindemith,Nørgård,Penderecki,Xenakis
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Europe
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Raschèr Saxophone Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1153
Taking its name from founder member and Thirties pioneer Sigurd Raschèr, the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet has been going strong since 1969, and needs no introduction to saxophone players, who will welcome this disc as much as will new-music sleuths. Like its partner, America, the Europe collection is rich in discoveries, starting with a brief two-movement Konzertstück written by Hindemith for Raschèr himself. Another interesting find is an arrangement of Penderecki’s Quartet for Clarinet and String Trio, a subtle exercise in neo-Romanticism minus its composer’s usual rhetoric.

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Here, as elsewhere, the influence of jazz is refreshingly absent, composers also preferring to focus their minds on abstract writing for this consort of intriguing sonorities. Xenakis’s XAS, inspired by a so-called ‘sieve theory’ of whole-tone scales, delivers a weighty parcel of monorhythmic energy. Other works concentrate on establishing a democracy of parts within the ensemble. Each of the three movements of Roads to Ixtlan by another pioneer in sound, Per Nørgård, leads to a common theme from different points of departure, while in Fractal, by the Spanish composer Cristóbal Halffter, independence of line goes a step further, yet eschews waywardness. Save for the Penderecki and Xenakis, all performances are world-premiere recordings. Nicholas Williams