Each of these fine Alex Mincek pieces written from 2010 ongoing is exquisitely played, and all but sung by Mincek and other instrumentalists as astute as himself, the Yarn/Wire/ & Mivos Quartet as well as the iconic Wet Ink Ensemble conducted by Eric Wubbels. And they explore, in delicately-charged detail, the sonic horizon while seeking what lies beyond in its infinite and comforting darkness.
The five works are also united by the alchemical means Mincek brings to the sounds and silences of poetry in short and long-form composition concerning elemental phenomena that ripple across his unique worldview. As in “Pendulum VII”, the “Harmonielehre” pieces and “Torrent”, Alex Mincek makes clear the matters of the heart in the resonant opening bars of each piece, in which woodwinds, piano and percussion initiate a high-level deconstructed dialogue and ordered syllogism that culminates in a compelling quod erat demonstrandum in the cathartic silence of each piece.
It is not, of course, that the music is driven by the mathematics of the metronome; rather it is by Mincek’s own inductive logic that seems to be propelled by his fascinating algebraic concepts focussed on beauty and barriers, longing, sadness and joy, which are set to musical pieces, each evoking a purer emotional beauty. The impact of all of this can also be felt in the sustained echoes of a crash announced by the brass and heavily pedaled piano in “Pneuma”, where the longer pedallings are made possible because the chords played are ideally balanced and phrases uttered by the brass and woodwinds are utterly well-graded and suited, dynamically, to the crescendo of the conversation.
Good pedalling should be almost impossible to notate. It often has more to do with subtle changes of pressure of the foot on the pedal in response to qualities of sound required by the player’s musical imagination — often just changing the weight of the dampers on the strings, rather than simply moving the pedal up and down at predetermined points. This is reminiscent of Debussy whose celebrated touch only occasionally allowed the pedal to encroach a tiny fraction from one harmony into the next, as if practising the five-finger exercise C, D, E, F, G legato by lifting one finger just an instant after one plays the next; the used only for the special effects it created with utmost discretion.
Both the two “Harmonielehre” sequences and “Torrent” impact the ear like deeply subjective cycles of great fragility which places the virtuosos who play the works command of pitch and line against some of the most gorgeous writing for violin, viola, cello, pianos and percussion as if in imitation of the quietude before the eruption of a restrained tsunami that crashes in wave after wave in “Torrent” as mallets and dampers strike strings and keys repeatedly while strings con arco echo in the inglorious vanity of absolute destruction.
Track List – 1: Pendulum VII – 11:16 (2010/11) – for alto saxophone and ensemble; Selected movements from Harmonielehre (2013-16 and ongoing…) – for violin and piano. 2: Chorale I: Sum + Difference; 3: Chorale II: Head against wall (For Petr Kotik); 4: Envelopes; 5: Pneuma – 13:22 (2015) – for tenor saxophone and large ensemble; 6: Selected movements from Harmonielehre (2013-ongoing…) – for violin and piano. 6: Rendering I: 7: Vocalise; 8: Rendering II – Oblique; 9: Torrent
Personnel – 1: Wet Ink Large Ensemble (1): Erin Lesser: flute I; Laura Cocks: flute II; Alex Mincek: saxophone; Ian Antonio: percussion; Ron Stabinsky: piano; Josh Modney: violin; Carrie Frey: viola; John Popham: cello; Greg Chudzik: bass; Eric Wubbels: conductor. Personnel – 5: Wet Ink Ensemble (5): Michael Ibrahim: saxophone solo; Erin Lesser: flute; Laura Weiner: horn; Gareth Flowers: trumpet; Weston Olencki: trombone; Ian Antonio: percussion; Laura Barger: piano; Josh Modney: violin I; Marina Kifferstein: violin II; Carrie Frey: viola; John Popham: cello; Greg Chudzik: bass; Eric Wubbels: conductor; Personnel – 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 & 8: Josh Modney: violin; Eric Wubbels: Piano; Personnel – 9: Yarn/Wire & Mivos Quartet: Laura Barger: piano; Ning Yu: piano; Ian Antonio: percussion; Russell Greenberg: percussion; Olivia De Prato: violin; Josh Modney: violin; Victor Lowrie: viola; Mariel Roberts: cello; Eric Wubbels: conductor.
Label – Sound American Recordings
Release date – May 2017
Running time – 1:07:00
Website – http://www.soundamerican.org/