MusicWeb International (2018)

From Martin Lohse
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1 Aug 2018 MusicWeb International
Review by: Richard Hanlon

Cd: Collage de temps - piano concerto and Chamber/sinfonietta works

The Dane Martin Lohse is one of those unusually gifted individuals whose artistic life encompasses more than one form; the biographical note in the booklet informs us that, in addition to composing, he is also a poet and visual artist. It is no surprise, then, that these worlds should to some extent collide in all three pieces on this disc. The major conceptual idea behind each of them seems to be that of the ‘mobile’, the form cultivated by the American abstract sculptor Alexander Calder who projected the notion that sculpture could be kinetic rather than simply static; thus his ‘moblies’ could be suspended and experienced from a range of perspectives. In this way, the material presented in Lohse’s work has an almost tactile quality, as though we are following the musical ideas around – be they melodic, rhythmic or textural ‘cells’ - and ‘feeling’ them in different ways. A dynamic quality is certainly evident in all three works.

The title of Lohse’s piano concerto ‘Collage de temps’ unambiguously alludes to the world of visual art. The ‘temps’ referred to here, though, are more elusive – they could relate to the rhythmic impulses of the five movements, while the composer may be also thinking about their stylistic influences. Indeed, the work incorporates baroque, classical and minimalist gestures throughout its twenty-five-minute span. In the finale, which I found to be the most attractive episode, there is even a nod towards Schubert and his Moments musicaux. The ideas themselves interlock and collide elegantly, while the piano part seems to fall most gratefully under the nimble fingers of soloist David Lau Magnussen. The small orchestra of soloists are kept busy throughout – each of the instrumentalists have their moment in the spotlight, although the harpsichord is a little too prominent for my liking, a little too stereotyped in its ‘baroqueisms’. The booklet quotes Lohse’s own aphoristic poem which I think addresses the piece’s objectives and character most succinctly:

Repetition and melody
Tempo and transformation

And an inner longing
for coherence

I suppose my major beef about Collage de temps is that notwithstanding the constantly varying stylistic references, much of the musical material seems rather homogenous and consequently somewhat unmemorable.

I enjoyed the following 5 momenti mobile a little more, not least for the rare opportunity to hear an accordion duo in the context of a chamber group – in this case Bjarke Mogensen and Claudio Jacomucci are accompanied by a piano trio. Its opening is rapt and misleadingly almost Sibelian; this gives way to airy, staccato gestures and motifs in which the accordionists seem to take gleeful advantage of the percussive sound of the keys on their instruments being depressed. The second movement is suffused by an appealing melancholy; while its mood is weary and rather resigned, the sound of the unusual ensemble is consoling and oddly beautiful. The material that forms the 5 momenti mobile is unashamedly diatonic and perceptibly built upon the interval of the major third. As one becomes more accustomed to the singular sound of this ensemble, the listener inevitably pays a little more attention to its structure - in particular to the more animated, dance-like forms that predominate in the final three movements. At times, I found the material a little too polite – sporadically the fourth movement Menuetto adopts an almost salon-like posture.

Best of all in this composer portrait, is the more concise concluding work. Lohse has given this the lovely title Moto immoto (Motionless motion), an apt oxymoron that utterly encapsulates this short, heartfelt piece. Texturally, it brought to my mind a more English sensibility, at times evoking ensemble music by Nyman or perhaps even Gavin Bryars. Moto immoto plays on the tension between busy, dynamic material and slower, wistful music which over time begins to predominate. The piece tastefully navigates the hinterland between mawkishness and sentimentality. Irrespective of whether it is intended as a reflection on the nature of nostalgia or even the process of ageing (I would hope not – Lohse is not yet 50), it certainly affected this reviewer in those terms – and easily bears repeated listening. It is revealing that this ten-minute panel lasts not a moment too long – I cannot, hand on heart, say the same for the two longer works on this disc.

Dacapo continues to do sterling work on behalf of Danish new music. On this evidence, Martin Lohse’s output is certainly colourful, often danceable and sometimes moving. It is honest and well-made, if not always particularly individual. The performances throughout suggest real commitment and enjoyment on the part of soloists and ensembles alike. The recording is vivid and natural.