ARASH SAFAIAN (b.1981): 5 Concertos after Works by Bach: Infinite Games, As Above So Below, Fuge Like a Passion, Newton’s Law and Dorian.
Catalogue Number: 12S075
Label: Berlin Classics
Description: Douglas Hofstadter's 1979 book 'Gödel, Escher, Bach' explores themes of mathematical logic, musical structure and perception in order to examine how human intelligence developed systems in order to apply sense, meaning and communication to the world. The book is long, complex, convoluted, written in popular, even chatty, style, and is one of those books, like Moby Dick and Finnegan's Wake, that belongs in every 'intellectual's' library, and has never been read from cover to cover. In acknowledged homage to Lewis Carroll, the book abounds in the word and number games and puzzles in which Alice's creator delighted. Safaian's sequence of concertos is the Cliff's Notes version of GEB in musical form. Enthralled by Bach's exquisite structures and the endlessly absorbing mechanisms that he derived from them, Safaian takes examples of Bach's most characteristic forms from his keyboard works and cantatas, especially his fugues and canons - the most puzzle-wifty (thank you for ever, Percy Grainger) and very freely transcribes, combines, rearranges and elaborates them. Safaian, a composer whose inclinations seem to run to a kind of elaborate post-minimalism in other works, is fascinated by the 'strange loops' of Bach's contrapuntal methods, and extends this aspect of his models in novel and inventive ways. The music remains broadly in the tonal language of the originals, though the chord sequences and harmonies tend to become less 'authentic' as the sequence progresses, and the unusual instrumentation for this kind of transcription, of piano and string orchestra with vibraphone lends a 'popular arrangement of Bach' air to the proceedings, but this serves to ensure that the music is always light and appealing. This is not the Fantasia contrappuntistica, lofty and elevated, but it isn't supposed to be; it showcases Bach's genius in quite another way, but thoroughly convincingly. Sebastian Knauer (piano), Pascal Schumacher (vibraphone), Zurich Chamber Orchestra.