The Strad Issue: January 2006
Musicians: Christoph Poppen (violin) Thomas Demenga (cello) Thomas Larcher (piano) Andrea Lauren Brown (soprano) Rosamunde Quartet
Composer: Larcher

Atonality and tonality bonded together by inventive rhythmic patterns provide the Austrian composer Thomas Larcher with a very personal voice. The present disc covers works written between 1990 and 2004 and is dominated by two string quartets, Ixxu and Cold Farmer, that were conceived, in Larcher’s words, for ‘musicians who like to be challenged’. The Rosamunde Quartet handles Ixxu’s moments of density and complex rhythmic patterns with such clarity and sense of ease that performing technicalities never impinge on our enjoyment. The many and instant mood changes never appear contrived, and the players’ vast dynamic range moves easily from the score’s many moments of drama to a sudden feeling of desolation in the last of the three movements. Cold Farmer is the more readily pleasing score, where the perfectly judged internal balance of the Rosamunde captures both the quiet and delicate textures of the second movement and the frenetic aspects of the third.

By taking the cello to the extreme ends of its range, Larcher gives the impression of a piano trio being involved in the cello–piano score Mumien – Thomas Demenga’s display of subtle virtuosity constantly fools the ear. This piece’s most unusual and intriguing sonorities can be found also in a work for soprano and piano trio My Illness Is the Medicine I Need, in which the instruments graphically express the words in music – Andrea Lauren Brown adopts the voice of the innocent in a text taken by the composer from words of mental patients.

With a recording that provides the analytical quality the music requires, this is a disc strongly recommended to those who find that tonality still has a place in the 21st century.