In a series of seven concerts held between May 2014 and May 2015, the Ensemble Reconsil, a contemporary music group directed by flutist Alexander Wagendristel, conductor Roland Freisitzer and violist Julia Purgina, presented an ambitious program featuring music from and about fourteen countries, each of which was represented by three of its contemporary composers. In addition, the group commissioned composers based in Austria—again, three for each country—to write works conveying their own impressions of the places. The concerts were recorded and are presented in this rich set of fourteen CDs, one per country. (In order of presentation: United States; Australia; South Africa; Spain; United Kingdom; Japan; Argentina; New Zealand; Singapore; Sweden; Hong Kong; Brazil; South Korea and Canada.)
An undertaking of this scope and diversity forestalls any attempt to describe the music in terms of anything like an underlying common style or single approach to composition. There is as much difference within each country’s cohort of composers as there is between countries, and nothing like a national style emerges from any. Some of the compositions do reflect national traditions, though. Argentina’s Herbert Grassi offers a work based on a highly oblique allusion to the tango; Hong Kong composer Pui-Shan Cheung’s piece was influenced by ethnic musics of China’s southwestern Yunnan province; Amir Safari’s Brazilian composition reflects the rhythms of samba; Anselm Schauffer’s impression of Japan is based on traditional Gagaku music. The other composers’ contributions span a similarly broad range of stylistic inspirations or echoes, from New York School-like sparseness (Andrew Toovey, Samuel Holloway, Lok-Yin Tang and, oddly for a program of mostly younger contemporary composers, Morton Feldman himself) to improvisation or quasi-improvisation (Hoh Chung Shih, Peter Jakober), jazz (Max Nagl, Clemens Wenger), pop/rock (Thomas Walley, Christoph Cech), and even television theme music (Jorge Sánchez-Chiong).
There is much to engage here in the many angles opened up by so many different artists, each pursuing his or her own vision of contemporary art music.