The Cikada ensemble, founded in Oslo in 1989, has always consisted of 10 “Cikadas” who are Odd Hannisdat and Karin Heilqvist (violins), Bendik Bjornstad Foss (viola), Johannes Martens and Torun Stavseng (cellos), Magnus Soderberg (bass), Rolf Borch (clarinet), Anne Karine Hauge (flute), leader Kenneth Karlsson (piano), and Bjorn Rabben (percussion), all under the baton of Christian Eggen. From its inception, Cikada has championed avant-garde repertory and has commissioned numerous works. In the case of this album, Ich muß mit Dir reden (We must talk), the group collaborates with highly regarded German composer Carola Bauckholt. In Bauckholt’s background essays on her work and the pieces in this program, she states: “A clear aim of my music is to create a space where disparate types of material are able to coexist and communicate with each other—the raw, the coarse, and the unexpected come face to face with the highly cultivated instruments of a classical chamber ensemble.” The titles in the following playlist should not be taken too literally as they are more suggestions of mood rather than programmatic images:
- Treibstoff (Fuel) (9:24)
- Laufwerk (Drive Mechanism) (11:38)
- Keil (Wedge) (14:33)
- Sog (Undertow) (18:43)
The creation of the composer’s musical universe often engages unusual sound effects, for example, two ultrasonic toothbrushes that the percussionist applies to the piano’s soundboard in Sog, random vocal utterances in Keil and Sog, the pouring water in Treibstoff or the heavy scissors rubbing a wooden box in Laufwerk.
This program with its numerous special audio effects and shifting soundscape would challenge any ensemble but Cikada’s players are most certainly up to the challenge of Carola Bauckholt’s musical world. Although each piece is given a specific title, there is no concrete program per se but rather a series of abstractions that exploit both traditional and nontraditional “instruments.” Is Ich muß mit Dir reden the beginning of an intimate conversation or, in this mostly wordless program, is it like what Felix Mendelssohn created in a much earlier musical era, Lieder Ohne Worten (Songs Without Words)? That question is apparently up to the listeners to decide.
This performance was recorded in DXD (352.8kHz/24-bit), and the Pure Audio Blu-ray Disc was then mixed down to a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio or 2-channel LPCM (both at 192kHz/24-bit resolution). The program was recorded in one of 2L’s favorite venues, Norway’s Jar Church. The musicians are seated in a circle around the array of microphones with the piano in the back. The audio team produces a crystal clear rendering of the players and their special sounds.
A super hybrid multi-channel SACD and mShuttle downloads in MP3 and FLAC formats are the musical bonuses. The program booklet has informative essays on the pieces written by the composer herself, director Karlsson’s take on his performing group, along with program tracks, performing and production credits, and recording session photos.
The Final Assessment
I was tempted to start this review with the warning “traditionalists need not enter” but, having traversed this relatively brief program twice, I now believe that 2L Records has, once again, opened new doorways for those listeners with musically open minds. A demonstration quality recording that exposes one of the many paths that classical music is now taking.
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