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CD Feature/ Anssi Karttunen & Kari Kriikku: "A Due"

img  Tobias
There are obvious instrumental combinations. And then there is the duo of Clarinet and Cello. The linernotes to “A Due” already admit that there are “no classic precedents” for the mix and make it very clear that this album just as much documents a piece of living New Music history in Finland, as it portrays the gradual emancipation of an ensemble-type which never hides the fact that it is “difficult”.

In any case, while I expect some people to immediately be able to enjoy the revolutionary potential of this dangerous liasion, the latter certainly applies to me. To put it bluntly: Few other discs have been as hard for me to decipher this Winter as “A Due”. This can only partly be attributed to the fact that we are talking about a blend of two melody instruments, as Antti Häyrynen implicitely claims in his – as always with Ondine – concise and revealing opening remarks.

Rather, it is the timbres of the two instruments, which often astoundingly merge into a single unit, which turns this into a case of very concentrated listening. While the many different composers, who have participated in the realisation of the album, have done their utmost to make this a technically challenging and highly varied set, many passages glide by the unattentive listener, leaving a blanc impression in their wake.

It truly takes time for the ear to acclimate. What lies beyond this process of habituation, is fascinating, though. The two instruments have the unique capacity of conflicting tremendously – such as when the Cello dives into ominous walls of abrasive drones and the Clarinet adds playful melodies – and blending into a single voice and into homogenous sheets of complex noise.

The league of composers, which ranges from “grandfather figure” Erik Bergman to younger names like Magnus Lindberg, displays a striking sense of inventiveness and humour by making the performers’ task as difficult as possible: The instruments are plucked, bowed, overblown, quietend to the point of silence and beaten to the verge of an explosion, while the score is complemented with demands of shouting and vocal hollerings in between and even on notes.

All credits must go out to Kari Kriikku and Anssi Karttunen, who actively created and fostered a new genre through a string of commissions, which go way back into the 80s – and for offering plenty of points of departure for anyone seeking inspiration. Thematically, this collection ranges from slapstick comedy to the complete refusal of Paavo Heininen to comment: “’Short’ is a short piece (...) I no longer explain.”.

This, too, might suggest a “difficult” album. But with so much reward looming on the horizon, that no longer counts as an excuse to let “A Due” pass you by.

Homepage: Ondine Records

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