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Friday, November 23, 2018

Marco Stroppa, Space, Ensemble KNM Berlin

The name Marco Stroppa (b. 1959) may ring a bell with you or it may not. Based on the recent album of his chamber music Space (Wergo 7372 2) I would say he deserves our attention as a living High Modernist of distinction. The album presents three works of note that explore aural space and extended techniques, played with dedication and imaginative precision. The works are "Hommage a Gy. K." for clarinet/bass clarinet, viola and piano, "Un Sagno Nello Psazio" for String Quartet, and "Osja, Seven Strophes for a Literary Drone" for violin, violincello and piano.

"Hommage" is a study in repetition cycles that lies somewhere between the carpet patterning of Feldman's "For John Cage" (discussed the other day on these pages) and the trance minimalism of a Reich or early Riley.

"Un Segno Nello Spazio" is a vibrant study in the abstract contrasts of extended string techniques in tandem and in spatial suspension, so to speak.

"Oska, Seven Strophes for a Literary Drone" makes ready and creative use of the idea of the piano trio in the Modern period. The piano part alone intrigues but then too of course there is much to appreciate in the three-way confluence and extended string  techniques that allow us to enter, relax and dwell for a time within a deep repository of poetic aural worlds.

The liners to the album mention Stroppa's prominent standing at IRCAM in the '80s, his highly developed innovations in the area of computer aided acoustics and the idea of this album's program as a kind of set of musical reflections on aural space. Space is a part of the musical experience as a Kantian universal yet too as a pliable medium capable of manipulation as Einstein's relativity suggests. Stroppa, the liners go on to explain, makes use of both the vertical dimensions of counterpointed interplay but also the idea of a 3-D attention to foreground and background.

I will leave it to those who get into the music to delve into these ideas more concretely as it is up to the listener to come to terms with Stroppa's thinking in the direct listening experience. And a good thing that is in my opinion.

One lives within this music for a time and one enters into a world of measured creativity and original poetics. Stroppa is a master and anyone into the advanced Modernist realms will find this album something both fascinating and bracing. A chamber music cornucopia of  well considered musical ideas. Bravo!

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