Monday, January 21, 2019

ONIX Ensemble, Hard Core, Dodecaphonic Gems by Boulez, Ishi and Carter, Alejandro Escuer, Jose Arean

The Dodecaphonic or 12-Tone vision of Modernity of course made its start with Schoenberg, reached critical mass with Webern, and then had its peak flowering with the Serial '50s-'70s. Pierre Boulez in France and later, Elliot Carter in the USA brought great depth and beauty to the form. And perhaps he is not as well known in Euro-American circles, but Maki Ishi created some stunning High Modern gems as well.

The wonderfully enthusiastic and precise ONIX Ensemble, comprised of talented young artists from Mexico, present three masterworks by the aforementioned composers, performed live with extraordinary grit and imagination. This on the recent album Hard Core (Cultura JBCC281).

It is music of breathtaking complexity. It is extraordinarily hard to play well. ONIX takes it all in stride and manages to sound uniquely individual in the process. I will not say that they make it sound easy. But they make it sound like it really is supposed to sound like they make it sound, and really that is far more important, isn't it?

"Le Marteau sans maitre" by Boulez is undoubtedly one of the chamber masterpieces of the 20th century and a Boulez breakout work. ONIX gives the ravishing pointillist-counterpoint an impetus of their own. This is High Modernism at peak impactfulness. It is also one of the very best of versions, without a doubt. The voice-flute-guitar-viola-percussion instrumentation and approach is a sublime Webernian phenom but with a treatment even more brilliantly Boulezian.

"Aphorismen" by Maki Ishi takes an acoustically lively gathering of violin, viola, cello, percussion and piano and gives it a very original twist, with contrapuntal flair that understandably feels a bit more Eastern.

Elliot Carter's concluding "Triple Duo" is a 1983 gem, a deeply concentrated later-period astral meditation for flute, clarinet, violin, cell, piano and percussion.

The music represents some peak heights of Utopia-Futurism and it is done with brilliance. You really should hear this one, and no doubt you should have this one too, if you want the best of New Music in your collection. Highest of recommendations.

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