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.
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