TTwo years ago, All That Dust released a performance of Stockhausen’s Kontakte recorded in binaural format, which gave a wonderful sense of the spatial effects between instrumental and electronic sounds. The label has now binaurally processed four pieces by Aldo Clementi, who died in 2011 at the age of 85.
Clementi was a member of the same generation of avant-garde Italian composers as Bruno Maderna, Luigi Nono and Luciano Berio, although he never embraced the concepts of total serialism with as much enthusiasm as his better-known contemporaries. Instead, he looked for other ways to organize his music and create the complex polyphonies he envisioned, and found what he needed by going back to the age-old techniques of imitation and canon.
The music he composed according to these principles from the 1970s is playful and joyful; it sometimes referred to other composers and styles, and was often exquisitely beautiful. Each of the four pieces here, none of which are very substantial, is a gem. Overture, for three piccolo quartets, two flutes and alto flute, was written for the great Italian flutist Roberto Fabbriciani, who recorded it alone in multitrack the 12 contrapuntal verses; Kathryn Williams follows Fabbriciani’s lead, placing the listener at the center of her network of interwoven and echoing voices. Melanconia’s four pairs of violins, all played by Mira Benjamin, move in and out of the foyer as they continue through the auditory space, while the four instruments (flute, violin, piano and tuned percussion) in the in short Canone Circolare are given the freedom to choose how and at what distance they repeat the soft material assigned to them.
Sonically most spectacular of all is the metallic sound world of L’Orologio di Arcevia, with its tinkling array of pianos, tubular bells, and sounds, seemingly inspired by the sound of a clock in a belfry. It comes wonderfully to life in Joe Richards and Mark Knoop’s performance, and heard as intended on headphones, it’s also fabulously engaging.
The other choice of this week
It is a skillfully contrasting collection of contemporary piano music, from the bravery swagger of Lorusso’s Deserts and softly rocking dissonances and ghostly fragments of Catlin Smith’s The Underfolding, to the scratches and squeaks of Thorvaldsdottir’s Reminiscence and to the stark contrasts and relentless clusters of Saunders Crimsons.