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Jürg Frey

Swiss born Jürg Frey’s music is characterised by a gentle but unorthodox harmonic beauty, and has been widely celebrated in recent years at numerous festivals and performances. His saxophone quartet ‘Mémoire, Horizon’ was composed for the Konus Quartet, and released on CD to great acclaim on the Musiques Suisses label. It was described by Brian Olewnick as “a wonderful, absorbing and thought-provoking work, possibly my favourite saxophone quartet ever….so, so great.”

Frey’s delicate piano music has also been highly praised. Reviewing ‘Circles and Landscapes’, Philip Thomas’s CD of his solo piano works, Michael Rosenstein wrote: “Thomas places each phrase and chord-set evenly across the duration of each piece and the music advances with an unwavering beauty bereft of any standard notion of melody or harmonic progression.”

And John Eyles commented: “Thomas delivers a flawless performance, leaving the listener to savour the spare beauty of the composition…Frey’s loving care and attention to detail shine through in his work. Simply exquisite.”

Featured releases

Edition Wandelweiser co-founder Jürg Frey presents the starkly beautiful minimalism of ’24 Wörter’, a song cycle based around the album’s evocative song titles, and performed by the trio of Regula Konrad (soprano), Andrew Nathaniel McIntosh (violin), and Dante Boon (piano). They’re mostly very succinct works with no detectable fat to trim, forming a gorgeous, dreamlike archipelago of experimental contemporary classical compositions... “Jürg Frey in conversation with Thomas Adank: JF: The 24 words are the titles of the individual pieces, and they are at the same time the entire text. They are also a list that shows how the piece gets from a beginning to an end. It is, in a sense, a cycle not simply a collection of pieces - a cycle which begins, makes a journey and ends at a different place. TA: If I had to categorize this list of words, it seems to me they are addressed to quite different areas. Herzeleid (Heartbreak) for example, sounds old-fashioned, Einsamkeitsmangel (Lack of Loneliness) almost sounds like a neologism, as do Halbschlafphantasie, (Half-Sleep Fantasy) Sehnsuchtslandschaft (Landscape of Longing), Vergessenheitsvogel (Bird of Oblivion). Others, such as Tod (Death), Schlaf (Sleep), Glück (Happiness), Wind (Wind), are very often used in everyday life. Did you, as you compiled this list, consider these categories? Or did you tell yourself a story that made these words necessary? JF: I was thinking in categories. At first I really wanted to make an even more rigid sequence. As it now stands, with the long words at the end and the short words in the middle, you can still feel a little of this structure; also at the beginning, which has many words with "e" and "ei". However, now it is not so strict. The words developed lives of their own, and this displaced some of the original structure. Some are everyday words, others are made by combining words, and some words found individual paths into the piece, including some very personal things. L'oiseau d'oubli ("Vergessenheitsvogel",Bird of Oblivion) comes from Edmond Jabès and is a tribute to this author I adore. But I also think that here Jabès has given me the perfect word. --- Dante Boon / pianoRegula Konrad / vocalsAndrew Nathaniel Mcintosh / violin --- Recorded 16.17 September 2013, Aarau, Schweiz.

Jürg Frey – 24 Wörter

Three works - two for large ensembles of performers on sax, guitar, clarinet, voice, percussion, horn, flute, vibes, and objects that belie the size of the group in its fragile presences, with a shorter trio of Frey, Greg Stuart and Erik Carlson transitioning the large pieces; compositions conceived as both short presences within abundant orchestration.  We tend to connect the aspect of structure with safety and stability;the ephemeral, in contrast, in something uncertain and fleeting, something not easy to grasp. thus structure and ephemerality seem to be opposites. in a musical work, though, the can coexist equivalently.one on the one hand, the sum of constructive processes and clear formal decisions leads to a clear architecture.consistently taking it into spheres of lightness and evanescence.the persuasive, coercing power immanent to structure must be avoided. structure then becomes fragile and permeable, allowing the ephemeral to unfold its presence, and, in this presence, to evoke a gleam of permanence.a substantial part of my work takes place in this intermediate zone.a structure hardly touched gives rise to a music that simply wants sensation. a breeze, light and shadow,spaces of colour, a glimpse, a landscape. - Jürg Frey, sketchbook, 2007. ---  University Of South Carolina Emperimental Music Workshop Ensemble are: Jürg Frey / clarinetPhilip Snyder / fluteRachel Whelan / flute, pianoJames Easteppe / guitarJohn Kammerer / hornBailey Seabury / percussionBrian Bethea / saxophoneGreg Stuart / vibraphone, percussionErik Carlson / violinNikil Sairam / violinLogan McLean / voiceMichael Halbrook / objectsAJ Karp / objectsBrooke Rosenberg / objectsChris Ruggiero / objectsDrake Strobel / objectsEric Dennis / objectsJessica Russell / objectsKallam Ashmore / objectsLauren Phillips / objectsMichael Halbrook / objectsNeil Thomas / objectsOlivia Smithson / objects --- Recorded, mixed and mastered by Jeff Francis at Columbia, SC, April 2016. Made possible by a grant from SC honours college through generous support of jeannette and marshall winn ’74.

Jürg Frey – Ephemeral Constructions

“The string quartet sounds sometimes like the silence of a square, a room, a wall or a landscape. The music is silent, but not absent. It is not speechless, and it also does not move with virtuosity bordering on silence. The music gets its vitality and its radiance, not from gesture and figuration, but in quiet presence – everything is there: colours, sensations, shadows, durations. The music is silent architecture.

The music has different emotional and architectural sonic spaces. Voluminous and fallow land, lightness and heaviness of materials, intimacy and being lost appear and disappear. And there are lines between which one crosses quietly. This music is created by simple and clear procedures; however, the requirement for the precision increases. Elemental materials and constructions are thereby perceived as a sensation, and mindfulness consists in hanging these sensations in balance before they have arrived at the limitations of expressiveness. Unhörbare Zeiten (inaudible times) are empty volumes in the music. Durations without sounds define their own entity and develop their architectural presence. One should add nothing to these empty volumes, neither in composition nor while listening. They should remain open, light and serene. I am working with audible and inaudible durations that appear partly simultaneously and partly consecutively. They give the piece lucidity and transparency, as well as materiality and solidity. There are sometimes almost spatial or bodily deci- sions to achieve a balance of the material, of the feeling for the piece, and of the compositional technique, and to create, from an initial idea of something limitless - a music with energy and breath.” “Rarely is music so gorgeously listenable also so explorative, rarely does music with one eye of music’s traditions sound so thoroughly modern. This is out there on its own.” - The Watchful Ear

Jürg Frey – String Quartet No. 3 / Unhörbare Zeit

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