The pungent after-burn of the turbulence of Soviet-era Hungary and the brimstone and fire that seemingly go hand in hand with freedom of expression brilliantly unfolds on Dionysian Sound Sparks to the Silence of Passing (name of the God is actually spelled “Dionysian”) in these disarmingly natural and eloquent performances by Trió Kontraszt. In their playing you hear not only precision, color and balance, but thunder, lightning and the language of the heart which, in turn, brings out the music’s inherent drama, with deft touch, while indulging their instrumental lyricism instinct to the full.
The members of Kontraszt, pianist Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer reeds and winds master István Grencsó and percussion colourist Szilveszter Miklós, respond brilliantly to each other’s melodic harmonic and rhythmic dissertations. Throughout the eight works on the disc there is a strong sense of each of the three men functioning like actors in some powerful drama. Each also takes turns controlling the forceful music with an unfailing sense of the right emphasis at the right moment, to deliver performances of affecting power and simplicity. This last aspect of the music often takes something amounting to the proverbial tightrope walking because of the momentous nature of the music.
One is immediately struck by how the musicians of Kontraszt have embraced new ways of embracing sound. For instance, Mr. Grencsó’s experimental technique – best expressed in “Dirge” becomes another element of an extremely idiosyncratic musical personality, one that has begun to emerge with great vividness on this disc. This plays well with Mr. Tickmayer’s own maturing musical language. Together both musicians join forces with Mr. Miklós and his drums to create music in which a sense of alienation and human frailty is never far from the surface. Here Kontraszt also show an awareness of the concentrated and concise forms of Webern in combination with a highly-charged expressiveness that has much in common with György Ligeti, György Kurtág and Alfred Schnittke as well.
While by no means exhaustive, the disc offers a panoramic survey of the music of Kontraszt. The performances by Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer, István Grencsó and Szilveszter Miklós are technically precise and deeply committed as you might expect from musicians who continually bring history and lived experience to the canon of music befitting a country and an universal style that has come to define what it is to be an artist committed to human rights and freedom.
Track list – 1: Hesitated; 2: Quasi Da Lontano; 3: De Ira; 4: Memorial; 5: Dirge; 6: Passamezzo ongaro per trio; 7: Zeno’s Aporia; 8: Your Beauty Behind The Veil
Personnel – Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer: piano, prepared piano, harmonium and keyboards; István Grencsó: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and flute; Szilveszter Miklós: drums and percussion
Released – 2017
Label – BMC Records
Runtime – 56:46