Gunnar Berg: í‰clatements
Erik Kaltoft, piano
Da Capo Records
I’d never heard of the Swiss Danish composer Gunnar Berg until this album, but I’m glad I encountered this work. Berg (no relation to Alban), who died in 1989, was a serialist who was part of the Darmstadt scene with Messiaen, Boulez, Stockhausen and others. The 72-minute, unfinished piano work í‰clatements is an interesting group of 13 serialist movements and performed exquisitely by Erik Kaltoft.
What I find fascinating about this work, which is given its recording premiere via this CD, is that it never sounds like the dry 12-tone style that is sometimes associated with the Darmstadt school. I suspect that characterization isn’t fair; Feldman, Ligeti and other nonserialist composers certainly attended Darmstadt. In any case, this set of pieces is quite a find. They’re short, pithy movements that are at times dead serious, at times comical, and always engaging. I don’t sense much in the way of the influence of Boulez or Stockhausen in this long collection. Rather, there seems to be an individual voice at work, one who understood how to use rows melodically and expressively. About my only complaint with the CD is the often dry acoustics/engineering. The liner notes are useful, and the CD has motivated me to learn more about this composer.