Tempo

Presenting a cross-section of Christopher Fox’s works, this excellent disc acts as a reminder of the clarity of Fox’s voice and the depth of his language. Scored for voice, viola and keyboard, Für Johannes Kepler (dedicated to the memory of Karlheinz Stockhausen) utilizes, intriguingly, an intervallic structure taken from Kepler’s intervals derived from the orbits of the planets of our solar system. The keyboard is tuned to these, and produces a decidedly extra-terrestrial effect. The other instruments use more traditional (Earth-bound, one might say) modes of expression; in this way, Fox pits the one against the other. Alfrun Schmid is a superb vocal soloist. The text she sings is a Latin hymn of praise. Her pitching is exemplary in this often delicate piece.

BLANK takes a long melodic line and presents it simultaneously at three different speeds. Over time, the impression if unity is dropped, bringing with it a discomfiting feeling of slow but inevitable implosion. The composer himself provides the texts for Trauermusik (1993), six movements originally for mezzo and hurdy-gurdy that document post-war Germany and are modeled on Max Frisch’s Tagebuch. The present instrumentation was devised in 2010 by Trio Scordatura. The text’s images of struggle to survive suddenly lighten at the fourth movement, ‘The weather is wonderful’ before returning to images of a city in shards.

Taken from the ensemble installation ‘Everything you need to know’, Generic Composition #8 focuses on the interaction between sustained, stopped and open strings in just intonation. It is for any stringed instrument whereon the sound of between one and four strings can be stopped simultaneously; here we hear it on electric guitar. The four strings are tuned to any four harmonic partials of a single fundamental. The use of electric guitar here gives the work a curious organ-like quality, at once ruminative yet somehow transgressive. Natural Science (premièred 2010), with words by Ian Duhig, is a poignant setting of seven short texts, delivered here by Bob Gilmore. The flighty viola part is superbly rendered by Elisabeth Smalt. There is wit here, too, brought in with a deft compositional hand.

The keyboard Sol-Fa Canon for Aldo Clementi (written for that composer’s 85 th birthday) lasts for less than a minute. Clementi’s name is rendered in sol-fa while equating the syllabic lengths of his name with durations, doubling the values for his surname. It makes for the perfect end for a stimulating disc.

—Colin Clarke