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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Konus Quartett & Klaus Lang - Drei Allmenden (Cubus, 2021) ****½

By Eyal Hareuveni

"Drei Allmenden" is a composition by  Austrian contemporary music composer-organist-improviser Klaus Lang for the experimental Swiss Konus Quartett - soprano sax player Fabio Oehrli, alto and soprano saxes player Jonas Tschanz, tenor and soprano saxes player Christian Kobi and baritone and soprano saxes player Stefan Rolli. Lang often collaborates with improvising ensembles like the German-Austrian Polwechsel (Unseen, HatHut Ezz-Thetics, 2019). The Konus Quartett dedicated its work to contemporary music and commissioned compositions by Jürg Frey, Barry Guy and Tomas Korber and performed compositions by John Cage, Iannis Xenakis and György Ligeti.

Lang explains in his liner notes that he wanted in this collaboration with Konus Quartett and the performance Drei Allmenden to reflect the scores of the 16th and 17th centuries, where the natural collaborative unity of musician and composer was essential to the music and the performance. This approach strips the scores from its so-called canonized status but also strips the performing musicians from their roles as priests and theologians who interpret the detailed prescriptions of ego-driven composers. “Music arises at the moment of its sounding as a fine mixture of determination and freedom through an amalgam of the prefabricated and the spontaneous. It's about creating a balance that ultimately serves a purpose: the revelation of concealed qualities and the beauty of sound”, Lang concludes.

Drei Allmenden was recorded in August 2020 with Lang playing the harmonium. It is a three-movement, 43-minute minimalist and meditative composition, focused on the way the ethereal vibrations of the Konus Quartett’s saxes blend organically and gently with the ethereal vibrations of Lang’s harmonium. This unity of beautiful sounds creates a subtle, carefully layered and highly resonating sonic entity that enables the supposedly simple musical gestures to shine. Patiently and methodically, new elements are introduced into this elusive, almost reverent but poetic progression of this moving composition. The calm, introspective ambiance, the disciplined balance between the saxes and the harmonium, and the natural flow of this composition have an accumulative, almost spiritual effect. A powerfully emotional and physical effect, as if the listener was washed and purified by quiet waves of healing sounds.