A Fall from the Perfect GroundA Fall from the Perfect Ground

Ensemble Alternance

DaCapo Records

A Fall from the Perfect Ground, Christian Winther Christensen
Deux Sonnets de Borges, Niels Rosing-Schow
Mirages, Morten Olsen
Moonlit, Klaus Ib Jí¸rgensen
Prelude – Voyage – Jotunheim, Ivar Frounberg
Ensemble Alternance

On “A Fall from the Perfect Ground,” Ensemble Alternance serves up a wealth of the most coloristic and stunningly beautiful music I’ve heard in a while. Each work, a creation of a contemporary Danish composer, is meticulous in its use of color and timbre and my ear was inexorably led from one moment to the next. This is a great disc.

The first work also provides the title of the CD, a four movement piece by Christian Winther Christensen. This is, for all of its energy and color, a very fragile work. Complex rhythms, shapes, and a richly atonal pitch palette propel the ensemble and the listener alike. Niels Rosing-Schow’s Deux Sonnets de Borges is much more subdued and directly dramatic. Helene Gjerris projects a rich and heavy mezzo-soprano sound over the ensemble and you can feel the weight of poetry in her every utterance.

The CD might be titled after Christensen’s composition, but in my opinion Morten Olsen’s Mirages owns the disc. The music starts in a fragile way, similar to the Christensen but not quite as detailed. All but one of the seven movements are marked “calmo e un poco rassegnato” or just “calmo” (calm a resigned). The movements start calmly, and a little resigned, but they sure don’t stay that way. In the third and fifth movements, calmness is hard to find. The music erupts in bold gestures alongside rich and dark punctuations.

Moonlit by Klaus Ib Jí¸rgensen brings another voice to the party. Marie Kobayashi functions as the dramatic focus, as mezzo-sopranos are wont to do. She commands this piece and drives each gesture and statement in the ensemble. She doesn’t just sing with the ensemble, she IS the ensemble. The instruments ebb and flow around her voice and meld perfectly with her vocal gestures and melodic lines.

Ivar Frounberg’s Prelude – Voyage – Jotunheim is an excellent summary of the whole disc. The music is sharp, brightly colored, and full of seething energy and razor-sharp precision in the ensemble. The intensity of sound and color in Frounberg’s work is visceral and compelling. All of the music on this disc has an edge to it, there is little lush comfort here, but I don’t want lush comfort. Each composer puts Ensemble Alternance out on a taught tightrope and they gracefully sprint over the distance to the other side. My ear was constantly being led in colorful directions and I didn’t want the music to stop.

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