German-Swiss Thomas Fortmann (b.1951) switched from rock songwriter to ‘classical’ composer at the age of 26. His Requiem for an Unborn Child (dda25047) and Sax Music ( msv28512) may already be familiar to the cognoscenti; the new album ‘In Dust We Trust’ offers three chamber works ripe for sampling. Fortmann shares the rock musician’s fondness for timescales averaging three to five minutes, a generally in-your-face rather than subtle approach, and – cheeringly, in present company – an unstoppable sense of momentum.
His style is wildly eclectic – twelve-tone methods drift in and out – and his stated influences are not instantly guessable by listening, like the Scriabin mystic chord allegedly permeating the relentless energy of ‘Estatico’, the second movement of the Prolitheus Suite for piano trio. Few movements consider changing speed, dynamic, pulse or mood en route – Orff’s Carmina Burana has much to answer for – but none is long enough to be boring. Prolitheus, recorded in Houston, suffers from a cramped and boxy recording that exacerbates the feeling of relentlessness; the violin-and- piano sonata A Southern Diary and the four pieces for two violins Con Pepe e Zucchero were recorded, more spaciously, in Switzerland and are far easier to listen to.
Some ideas fail to come off – the mixing of Scheherazade and Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 in the two violin Ripa Verde sounds no more satisfying than listening in on two adjacent but unsoundproofed conservatoire practice rooms. ‘New Orleans at Fritzel’s’, the second movement of A Southern Diary , is the most immediately appealing item for newcomers; most sensitive, surprisingly perhaps, is the two-violin Dodecafollia, and the closing two-violin Alinghi is catchy.
You’ll have deduced Fortmann’s fondness for word games and punning titles; his music is an invigorating listen, wherever you start, and may wear well; duettists should certainly investigate the two-violin pieces. Players include Rimsky-Korsakov’s great-great-granddaughter Natasha on violin; Manrico Padovani, Andrzej Grabiec, Misha Quint, Carlo A. Lapegna and Akemi Masuko all make stylish and unflagging contributions.