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Austrian pianist Thomas Larcher has been heard as a gifted interpreter on previous ECM recordings: interweaving piano pieces of Schoenberg and Schubert, with great imagination, on a disc of his own, joining Michelle Makarski in performances of Dallapiccola and Berio, playing the music of Heinz Holliger on the prize-winning "Lieder ohne Worte", with Thomas Zehetmair and Ursula Holliger. "Naunz", however, is the first of Larcher's New Series discs to feature his own compositions.

Larcher's music, Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich notes in the CD booklet, "is permeated with the achievements of Western tradition, which culminated in the Second Viennese School and the generation that followed. But the composer also responds flexibly to more recent American and Eastern European tendencies, to the sound and movement patterns of minimalism, the osmotic penetration of Morton Feldman, the anarchistic aesthetic of John Cage, the meditative or spontaneously expressive impulses of the Russian composers. This results in musical structures of exceeding diversity and variability. Not even the concept of a 'tonal language' truly applies. Larcher's musical textures are often very remote from any similarity to language. They rely on the enormous expansion and compression of time, working with almost cinematic montage techniques, with cross-cuts, with rhythmic spans both long-arching and brief, with precisely calculated intensification and internal structuring. There is no question: Thomas Larcher's music is clearly and securely shaped and radiates intellectual control."

It is a highly concentrated music, and one the composer feels must speak for itself. Larcher: "Although I regard my pieces as transmutations of real ideas, events, feelings - these can only be reconstructed musically. Verbal gyrations merely obfuscate the clarity." Or, as English composer David Bedford once wrote, in a curt programme note, "this is music for listening to, not reading about." However, it does help to know, for instance, that "Vier Seiten" (1998) for cello solo was written as a response to the death of racing driver Ayrton Senna and to the manner in which the "accident was repeated in slow motion ad nauseam on every TV station". "Vier Seiten" translates those images, and the composer's reaction to it into a sound picture. "After the collision, so to speak as an epilogue, everything suddenly slowed down: cars and tyre particles hovered in the air, and the torso of the vehicle gradually juddered to halt. Only then did I notice that the whole scene had been accompanied by a paralysing silence."

"Kraken" (1994-97), meanwhile, is an autobiographical work, one that examines and contrasts aspects of the composer's journey: "Stages of various developments are revealed, superimposed, combined; levels are shifted, questioned, destroyed. The counterpoint extends a whole network of other levels through the piece - rhythmic levels, character levels, colour levels."

In the piano piece "Naunz" (1989), tension is generated by setting a quasi-meditative reiterative device against more aggressively repetitive patterns; tranquillity has the last word. "Noodhivhik (1992) juxtaposes prepared and natural piano sounds. The "Klavierstück 1986", earliest work in this collection, already shows evidence of the tendency that Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich calls "a dialectic escalation of contrasting sound elements".

Finally, there is "Antennen-Requiem für H." (1999), a private tribute, its sounds so subtle as to skirt the brink of audibility.

On these recordings, the pianist/composer is joined by cellist Thomas Demenga - "ever since our paths first crossed about nine years ago, Thomas Demenga has been my favourite chamber music partner" - and by violinist Erich Höbarth. Larcher and Demenga are musicians of similar temperament, both committed to contemporary music, both also composers yet also interested in performance traditions from different periods of music history. Until now Erich Höbarth has largely specialized in playing older music on historical principles with Nikolaus Harnoncourt's Concentus Musicus and with the Quatuor Mosaiques. Larcher: "During the rehearsals with our trio, Thomas Demenga and I were fascinated by the curiosity and enthusiasm with which Erich Höbarth approached the music of our time, and the fresh and unspoilt energy he invested in my own music. Our concerts and the subsequent recording were experiences and adventures that enriched us all."

***

Thomas Larcher, born 1963 in Innsbruck, studied piano in Vienna with Heinz Medjimorec and Elisabeth Leonskaja, and studied composition with Erich Urbanner.

He has made festival appearances in Salzburg, Luzern, Bregenz, Berlin, Wien, Graz, Schwetzingen, Linz and Lockenhaus, and given concerts with orchestras including the Orchestra of the Salzburg Mozarteum, the RSO Vienna, the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, the Orchestra of the Saarländischer Rundfunk, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, the National Symphony Orchestra Dublin and others. He has collaborated with leading conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Michael Boder, Paul Daniel, Dennis Russell Davies, Michael Gielen, Hans Graf, Heinz Holliger, and Peter Rundel.

Highlights of the 2000/2001 seasons have included his acclaimed performances of the "Well-Tempered Clavier", and composer's portrait concerts at the Bregenz Festival.

Thomas Larcher works closely with composers including Heinz Holliger, Michael Jarrell, Wolfgang Mitterer, Olga Neuwirth and others. His own compositions include solo pieces, chamber music and works for orchestra. He records exclusively for ECM/New Series. Thomas Larcher is artistic director of the "Klangspuren" Festival in Schwaz, Tyrol, and professor for piano at the Basel Music Academy.

***

Thomas Demenga was born in 1954, in Berne, Switzerland. Thomas Demenga studied with Walter Grimmer, Antonio Janigro, Leonard Rose and Mstislav Rostropovich, amongst others, and received his chamber music education at the Juilliard School. Successes at competitions in New York and Genf launched his international career. He was already established as a soloist and a chamber musician before he began to compose music, writing his first piece at the age of 30 in 1984. In 1991 he won First Prize at the Tribune International des compositeurs in Paris for his composition "Solo per due".

Thomas Demenga's versatility is manifested in his work as instrumentalist, composer and teacher (he continues to hold a post at the Basel Music Academy). He is interested in music from all eras, and enjoys mixing widely varied selections in his concerts. He has made a series of recordings for ECM exemplifying this approach, with Bach's cello suites coupled with pieces by Heinz Holliger, Elliott Carter, Sandor Veress and B. A. Zimmermann. Thomas Demenga's Bach/Carter recording (ECM New Series 1391) was awarded the Quarterly Prize of the German Record Critics. Demenga travels widely, giving master classes and appearing in cello congresses around the world. He is a well-known pedagogue, and has been instrumental in the training of many professional cellists.

His most recent ECM recording, a collaboration with cellist brother Patrick Demenga is the album "Lux aeterna", with music by Alexander Knaifel, Barry Guy, Jean Barrière, Roland Moser and Thomas Demenga himself.

***

Eric Höbarth was born in 1956 in Vienna, where he studied with Grete Bidermann and Franz Samohy; subsequently there were studies in Salzburg with Sandor Végh. From 1978 - 1980 he was a member of the celebrated Végh Quartet, followed by seven years as concertmaster of the Wiener Symphoniker. He has long held the position of first violin with Quatuor Mosaiques which plays the classical repertoire on original instruments and collaborates in chamber music with András Schiff and Sabine Meyer. With the Wiener Streichsextett, another long-term relationship, he is committed to maintaining "a living Viennese style", to this end several contemporary composers have written works for the ensemble. Höbarth has appeared frequently as a soloist with the Wiener Symphoniker, the Chapelle Royale in Paris and the Concentus Musicus under Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He is a visiting professor for chamber music at the Musikhochschule in Graz.

CD package includes 24 page German/English booklet with notes on the compositions by Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, and a statement by Thomas Larcher.

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