Tuesday 15 March 2016

Dance into concert music: Nimrod Borenstein's Suspended

Nimrod Borenstein - Suspended
Nimrod Borenstein Suspended; das freie orchester Berlin, Laercio Diniz; Solaire
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Mar 7 2016
Star rating: 3.5

Enterprising recording of a new dance score by Nimrod Borenstein

Ballet and dance scores shorn of their visual content can be tricky things to bring off on disc. When writing the piece the composer has to be aware that the music has to partner the choreography and stage action and must not dominate yet should still have sufficient interest on its own.

This new disc from Laercio Diniz and das freie orchestra Berlin on the Solaire label brings us Nimrod Borenstein's complete score for 4 x 4 Ephemeral Architectures, directed by juggler Sean Gandini and choreographed by Ludovic Ondiviela, which premiered at the London International Mime Festival in 2015. Borenstein's score was written specifically for Gandini's work but clearly is intended to have a life of its own and is called Suspended, Op. 69.

A forty-minute work, it divides into eight movements (The world of yesterday, Suspended, Stillness, Tango, Annoyed, Boys and girls, Pizzicato serenade, Tomorrow's waltz) written for string orchestra, and here played by the 8 players of das freie orchester Berlin, which was originally founded as the house band of Dirk Fischer's Solaire label.

4 x 4 Ephemeral Architectures

4 x 4 Ephemeral Architectures - Photo: Beinn Muir

Borenstein writes tonal music, with interestingly and intelligently spiced harmonies. He clearly has a good ear for imaginative textures, and whilst the various movements of the suite flow beautifully into each other they all have their own distinct timbre and feel. Overall, the music is attractively melodic but melody is not his key interest and the various lines interweave in a attractive manner.

In style, the work reminded me very much of the interesting streams of Scandinavian (both Arvo Part and pre-war composers) and Central European music for strings with tantalising hints of influences such as Piazzolla in the tango, all merged into Borenstein's own voice.

Sean Gandini's article in the CD booklet makes it clear that much of the music was written independent of Gandini, and is not the result of long sessions of intense dialogue. 'Nimrod wrote music that reflected what he thought we were doing and we in turn responded to the music.'

The rest of the CD booklet is a little frustrating. There are three articles by Tobias Fischer, one on Nimrod Borenstein, an interview with Borenstein and an article about music and dance. All are fascinating and build to a substantial body of thought and comment, though they do verge on the hagiographical in tone. But biographical details are lacking, we have no information about where Borenstein is based and where studied (born in 1969 in Israel, he grew up in Paris, studied at the Royal College of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music with Paul Patterson). Perhaps, more frustratingly, there is no information about the original stage work for which this music was written.

We are, hence, expected to listen to this music semi-blind, to experience it as music without any outside influences. I enjoyed the disc, and found the various movements appealing, though I found the whole rather polite and I would have liked a little bit of grit occasionally or a moment which got really down and dirty. The movements here, whether free in style or using a dance movement like the tango or the waltz, are all feel a little too consistently nice. The music is extremely well played by Laecio Diniz and das freie orchester. But ultimately the score seems to be a little to long for its content, too attractively discursive with no sense of long-term narrative. I felt that to do the piece justice a little pruning would be helpful. This is a lovely disc to dip into.

Nimrod Borenstein (born 1969) - Suspended, op.69 [40.37]
das freie orchester Berlin
Laercio Diniz (conductor)
Recorded 27, 28 August 2015, Jesus-Christus Kirche, Berlin
SOLAIRE 1CD [40.37]
Available from Amazon.co.uk.

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