Thomas Demenga / Erich Höbart THOMAS LARCHER Naunz

Austrian composer Thomas Larcher, born in 1963, has the singular ability to write music that can sound sweet without sounding naïve or simplistic. Larcher can also certainly write music that's powerfully assertive, but if his work has a characteristic sound, it could be described as emotionally expressive in a meditative, often melancholy way. Naunz, for piano (1989), couldn't be called easy; Naunz's musical logic tends to be unpredictable and is seldom immediately obvious, although close attention reveals an emotional through-line, and it is full of beautiful, clarion major thirds that are used utterly unconventionally, but that help keep the listener anchored. Similar compositional approaches are evident in each of the works recorded here, which reward close and focused listening and are emotionally honest and make sense on a subliminal, if not always rational level. The most substantial work on the album is Kraken, in which pianist Larcher is joined by cellist Thomas Demenga and violinist Erich Hobarth. The variety of instrumental colors available to the trio, which Larcher deploys with the utmost delicacy, opens up an even broader range of expressive possibilities than the solos works. The brief Antennan-Requiem für H. inhabits much the same contemplative world as the other pieces, but it is performed entirely inside the piano. Larcher's work should appeal to fans of new music that defies easy categorization and that expresses a distinctive, communicative compositional voice. The sound of the ECM album, produced by Manfred Eicher, is characteristically immaculate and lively.

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