BRETT DEAN (b.1961): Shadow Music, Testament, Short Stories for String Orchestra, Etüdenfest for Strings and Obbligato Piano, LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827): Adagio molto e mesto from String Quartet in F, Op. 59/1 (arr. Brett Dean).
Catalogue Number: 08S056
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: Etüdenfest is a nightmare vision of the practice room, familiar to any performing musician. The opening is a formless murmuration of technical exercises for strings. After an anchoring chordal passage these return with greater definition, forming an Ivesian cacophony of fragments repeatedly emanating from a hundred practice studios, into which a sole pianist interjects his studies for a tumultuous finish. Shadow Music is more serious in its sinister intent. Three movements with a strong tonal basis explore implications of the word 'shadow'; a threatening prelude like gathering storm clouds; a decayed, overgrown tangle of weeds and briars in a 'Forgotten Garden'; and a ghostly nocturne which becomes a hectic witches' dance full of scurrying grotesques. The five Short Stories are little mood-setting musical aphorisms; a solemn chorale; an agitated, nervous episode; an eerie nocturne with a sense of foreboding; 'Komarov's Last Words', an ambiguous confusion of bleeps and squeaks from space or the beyond, temporarily interrupted by a belligerent passage of Soviet Realist pastiche in an epitaph for the lost cosmonaut; a melodic epilogue with a questioning undercurrent. The full orchestral version of Testament (the original, for 12 violas, was offered on 11P010), Dean's tribute to Beethoven, dramatising his descent into deafness is prefaced by Dean's skilled transcription of the work by Beethoven that is quoted at length but as though in a feverish dream in Dean's own elegiac, protesting, finally determinedly resolved work. Swedish Chamber Orchestra; Brett Dean.