Gudmundsen-Holmgreen: For Cello and Orchestra; Frère Jacques; Concerto grosso for String Quartet and Symphonic Ensemble

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COMPOSERS: Gudmundsen-Holmgreen
LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: For Cello and Orchestra; Frère Jacques; Concerto grosso for String Quartet and Symphonic Ensemble
PERFORMER: Morton Zeuthen (cello); Kontra Quartet, Danish National RSO/Michael Schønwandt
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224060
Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen is the joker in the pack of Danish composers. At the start of For Cello and Orchestra, with the soloist high up on the instrument against grunting double basses, I thought we were in for a rerun of his notorious Plateaux pour deux – where a cello spins a long, lyrical line against a disruptive background of motor horns and cow bells. But this is a much more serious piece, a sort of ‘disturbed’ funeral march – like Boulez’s Rituel – with an inevitability of pulse and a constant slow harmonic movement. Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s use of repetition and tonal harmonies, together with incredible orchestral inventiveness, give the piece a striking immediacy. The performances of the soloist, Morten Zeuthen (for whom it was written), and the orchestra are utterly gripping.

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Frère Jacques is an older piece, and more elusive, even angst-ridden. Ghosts of the familiar tune – its melodies, rhythms and harmonies – slip in and out of a phantasmagorical world. The same quality informs the Concerto grosso which, for much of the time, is more a ‘ghost’ of a concerto grosso – the sounds you might hear wandering through a haunted concert hall. One of the most exciting CDs I’ve come across this year. Martin Cotton