In reference to the subject of the review, a triple CD, label manager Martin Davidson writes that “no doubt some critics will complain that they don’t have time to listen to so much music”. A 48-hour day is now officially demanded to find more room for editions comparable to this, spun in its entirety five or six times before committing to typing a few hopelessly ineffectual words. The exclamation “A live composition Festival!” opening Etienne Rolin’s liners may synthesize what we’re talking about here, still doing no justice to the astonishing lucidity of the acoustic matter, completely improvised between August and September 2009 in various locations adjoining Rolin and Carter’s living quarters in France. Different settings and lineups, including Rolin himself (on clarinet, basset horn and alto flute), double bassist Kent Carter, violinist/violist Albrecht Maurer and fellow clarinettist Theo Jörgensmann.
Disc one comprises a trio performance of Jörgensmann, Maurer and Carter. The atmospheres oscillate from poised contemplation to slight disobedience kept in sync by a commendable sense of self-discipline. The participants privilege the essential traits of the instruments while totally avoiding frivolity, making the respective intuitions work in a cross of flexible severity and rational fluency that produces moments of bona fide aural magnificence by the dozen. A perfect synthesis is found in “Suite Of Actions”: parabolic upper partials, broad-shouldered surges and technically advanced idioms easily discernible in an educated negotiation. However, the closing “Up And Away” – a vibrant violin/bass discussion – is another episode that should cause the connoisseurs’ arm hair to stand.
The second item features a brace of sets. A Rolin/Carter duo introduces the listener to the trenchant aspects of an entanglement that converts apparent impracticality into convincingly emotional responses. The perceptible spaces and “audible silences” from which everything starts attribute a degree of intimacy to something that, quite often, appears grand instead. The single timbres are things of beauty – we almost feel ourselves being plucked, arcoed and blown through (check “Alto Flute Story” to get a fairly accurate picture).
The first of the two quartet takes – “The Summer Works Suite” – fuels the interplay’s flame up to “best contemporary chamber” vividness, our judgement enhanced by the superiority of the instrumental nuances warranted by the church of Sers’ resonant properties. We’re at the uppermost level of sensitivity and reciprocal awareness, all the frequencies finding the ideal spot to contribute to a general image of large-scale accomplishment. Spontaneous contrapuntal ramifications celebrating the absence of scores in a superb statement against counterfeit artistry. Stravinsky is probably smiling upon these guys. And, perhaps, Mozart – history’s greatest composer of ringing tones for mobiles – is chewing over his alleged “genius”.
The show comprised by the third disc – recorded in Sers, too – is the logical prosecution of the preceding audience-less meeting. Taking shape from darker hues, as if waiting for the pitches to reach an adequate stage of intensity, the interrelation of sounds and souls instantly drives the playing towards a zone that is at once distant from gratuitous extremism and detrimental to the encoded clichés afflicting the classic terminologies (and a good number of improvisational briefings). The four musicians literally locate phrases and gestures on the fly, situating them inside malleable designs that do not need strict supervision to exhibit utmost efficiency. This, in a way, is also the place where a measure of poignancy is allowed: around the tenth minute, an awesome spreading of matching energies alone repays the commitment you’ll put in to absorb the music’s overall vibe.
A strong recommendation is to perform the listening duties in both ways: headphones to better enjoy the fine balance of intelligible complexity and personal equanimity, speakers to let the untainted magic of the notes refract on the walls and disassemble the self’s mechanisms for three precious hours. If residual reasons exist for the survival of imprints like Emanem as opposed to the systematic free download of stuff that ultimately will never be heard, the opportunity of financing and releasing a terrific set such as Summer Works 2009 is one of the most important.