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Frey, Jurg

Circles and Landscapes - works for solo piano played by Philip Thomas

Frey, Jurg: Circles and Landscapes - works for solo piano played by Philip Thomas (Another Timbre)

Five new or recent pieces from composer Jurg Frey, alongside his 1993 work "In Memoriam Cornelius Cardew", all performed by pianist Philip Thomas, presenting slowly unfolding compositions emphasizing the physical space and time within which sounds are situated.

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product information:

Label: Another Timbre
Catalog ID: at91
Squidco Product Code: 21490

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2015
Country: UK
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at St. Paul's Hall, university of Huddersfield, UK, on August 4th and 5th, 2015 by Simon Reynell.


Jurg Frey-composer

Philip Thomas-piano

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Artist Biographies:

"Jürg Frey was born in 1953 in Aarau, Switzerland. Following his musical education at the Concervatoire de Musique de Genève, he turned to a career as a clarinetist, but his activities as composer soon came to the foreground. Frey developed his own language as a composer and sound artist with the creation of wide, quiet sound spaces. His work is marked by an elementary non-extravagence of sound, a sensibilty for the qualities of the material, and precision of compositional approach. His compositions sometimes bypass instrumentation and duration altogether and touch on aspects of sound art. He has worked with compositional series, as well as with language and text. Some of these activities appear in small editions or as artist's books as individual items and small editions (Edition Howeg, Zurich; weiss kunstbewegung, Berlin; complice, Berlin). His music and recordings are published by Edition Wandelweiser. Frey has been invited to workshops as visiting composer and for composer portraits at the Universität der Künste Berlin, the Universität Dortmund and several times at Northwestern University and CalArts. Some of the other places his work has developed are the concerts at the Kunstraum Düsseldorf, the Wandelweiser-in-Residence-Veranstaltungen in Vienna, the Ny music concerts in Boras (Sweden), the cooperation with Cologne pianist John McAlpine, the Bozzini Quartet (Montréal), QO-2 (Bruxelles), Die Maulwerker, incidental music, as well as the regular stays in Berlin (where during the last years many of his compositions were premiered). Frey is a member of the Wandelweiser Komponisten Ensemble which has presented concerts for more than 15 years in Europe, North America and Japan. Frey also organizes the concert series moments musicaux aarau as a forum for contemporary music."

-Other Minds (

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"Philip Thomas (b.1972, North Devon) specialises in performing new and experimental music, including both notated and improvised music. He places much emphasis on each concert being a unique event, designing imaginative programmes that provoke and suggest connections.

He is particularly drawn to the experimental music of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff, and composers who broadly work within a post-Cageian aesthetic. In recent years he has been particularly associated with the music of Christian Wolff, giving the world premiere of his Sailing By in 2014 and Small Preludes in 2009, the UK premiere of Long Piano (Peace March 11), having co-edited and contributed to the first major study of Wolff's music, Changing the System: the Music of Christian Wolff, published by Ashgate Publications in 2010, and currently recording all of Wolff's solo piano music for sub rosa. He is an experienced performer of John Cage's music, having performed the Concert for piano and orchestra with both Apartment House and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as well as most of the solo piano and prepared piano music, including a unique 12-hour performance of Electronic Music for piano

He has commissioned new works from a number of British composers whose ideas, language and aesthetic have been informed in some ways by the aforementioned American composers, such as Stephen Chase, Laurence Crane, Richard Emsley, Christopher Fox, Bryn Harrison, John Lely, Tim Parkinson, Michael Parsons, and James Saunders.

In recent years Philip has pursued a passion for freely improvised music, after significant encounters with the music of AMM and Sheffield-based musicians Martin Archer, Mick Beck and John Jasnoch. He has worked with improvisers in a variety of contexts and recently devised a programme of composed music by musicians more normally known as improvisers as well as others who have been influenced by improvisation in some form. This led to a CD release, Comprovisation, which featured newly commissioned works by Mick Beck, Chris Burn and Simon H Fell. Other CD releases include music by Martin Arnold, Laurence Crane, Christopher Fox, Jürg Frey, Bryn Harrison, Tim Parkinson, Michael Pisaro, James Saunders, Christian Wolff, as well as with improvisers Chris Burn and Simon H Fell.

Philip is a regular pianist with leading experimental music group Apartment House, with whom he has performed in festivals across the UK and Europe. He has also performed with the Quatuor Bozzini, and in duos with Mark Knoop, Ian Pace and John Tilbury (piano duet and two pianos) and James Saunders (electronics).

In 1998 Philip was awarded a PhD from Sheffield University in the performance practice of contemporary piano music. Between 2000 and 2005, he was Head of the Sheffield Music School whilst pursuing an active performing and teaching career. He joined the staff team at the University of Huddersfield in 2005, and became Professor of Performance in 2015. Philip is one of the Directors of CeReNeM, the University's Centre for Research in New Music. He continues to live in Sheffield, where he premieres the majority of his programmes, with his wife Tiffany and children Naomi and Jack."

-Philip Thomas Website (

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track listing:

1. In Memoriam Cornelius Cardew 2:31

2. Circular Music No.5 13:25

3. Extended Circular Music No.2 4:43

4. Pianist, Alone (2) 29:48

5. Miniature In Five Parts 5:31

6. Extended Circular Music No.9 21:36

sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"78 minutes of wonderful piano music by Jurg Frey: five new or recent pieces together with 'In Memoriam Cornelius Cardew' from 1993. "Philip Thomas presses the keys with such resonating deliberation that I felt I was at the piano with him. There is not only vibrant life in this music, but maturity....[Frey] is beyond the need to prove something, or make a point. His music just is."-Debra Richards, Swissvibes

Philip Thomas on the music of Jürg Frey

"Jürg Frey the performer is inseparable from Jürg Frey, composer. To understand his music is to know that underlying each event, each phrase, each rest, each relationship, is the beating heart of a performing musician. Frey's sense of pitch is that of someone who knows pitch. That is, someone who knows what it is to make pitch sound, and to make sounds live and breathe, who knows how it feels for two sounds to collide in space and time, and who knows what it is for sounds to appear and then disappear, to be articulated in time. And to hear Frey make those sounds - to hear the clarinet both as an instrument communicating across centuries (how I would love to hear him perform Mozart's clarinet quintet) and as an entirely fresh sound, emerging from nothing, barely present yet imbued with a radiance that makes a nonsense of the reductionist label at times assigned to his music - is to recognise that his composed music is abundantly affirmative.

Like the music of his older friend, American composer Christian Wolff, his music is to be played and to be understood through playing. It is discovered only through the act of performance and through experiencing the sounds made alive. Unlike Wolff, however, whose unique performance strategies result in a strange, at times fragmented music, Frey's flexible treatment of older models, such as canons and chorales, is easily perceptible yet entirely fresh.

To those readers and listeners who know of Frey (born Switzerland, 1953) as part of the 'Wandelweiser' group of composers, and who consequently characterise his music as reductionist, concerned only with silence and minimal sounding events (possibly somewhat austere), the description of Frey's music above may come as something of a surprise. But, as with all groupings and labels, the story is far more muddied than the generalised perception. Frey has been associated with the Wandelweiser group - including founders Antoine Beuger and Burkhard Schlothauer, Eva Maria Houben, Carlo Inderhees, Radu Malfatti, Craig Shepard, Thomas Stiegler, Manfred Werder, Michael Pisaro, and many others, some who have come and gone, and a host of younger composers, many in their 20s and 30s - almost since its inception as a movement (founded in 1992, Frey joined the following year). His music is published by Edition Wandelweiser, which has also released a number of recordings of his music, and he plays with the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble.

"His music shares with many of these composers an emphasis upon quiet, sometimes extremely quiet, sounds, is generally fairly slow moving, and embraces the totality of the sounding environment, whereby the physical space and time within which sounds are situated and between sounds is fundamental to the musical discourse. Shared influences might include John Cage, Christian Wolff, George Brecht and others within the Fluxus movement. Yet each of the composers listed above pursue their own compositional and aesthetic interests. Pisaro's recent work, for example, is characterised by textural multilayering, field recordings and noise. Werder's work navigates a route between a conceptual, poeticised text-based work, bordering on the non-event, and (live) sound installation. Jürg Frey's own work is diverse, including sound installations, works for electronics and electric instruments, and a number of scores for undetermined instrumentation. Some hcmf// regulars might recall his Un champ de tendresse parsemé d'adieux, premiered by the edges ensemble in 2011, comprising the sounds of falling dried leaves and very small stones and the faint whistling of the performers dispersed around the performing space. At the same time he has written some of the most harmonic and melodic music of all the Wandelweiser composers.

The works which feature in "hcmf// 2015" tend toward pitch-based compositions. There are exceptions, most notably the second string quartet, performed by its dedicatees the Bozzini Quartet. (To hear this live will be a rare treat for those of us who first encountered their recording of it, released in 2006, and were stunned by the extraordinary sonority and intimate physicality of the music.) Often familiar tonal material hovers curiously between the states of being and progressing. But lest the music becomes too familiar, too 'understood', one can sometimes sense the composer consciously rubbing out what's gone before, through repetition or silence, or change, so that what was heard becomes forgotten.

Recent works foreground sound over silence, in contrast to earlier works. At the same time one might argue that what we hear is not 'speaking' but merely being; that the music tends toward silence through its 'not-speaking'. It is in no hurry to go anywhere nor say anything. In Frey's own words: 'Silence can also be present in the sounds. In order to have silence in sounds, one must let go of everything which gets in the way of this silence. This sound is a sound without the idea of what it can mean or how it should be used.' Frey's music calls upon both listener and performer to surrender expectations, to give themselves to the present whilst allowing what was to colour what is. All that is known is what is experienced - sound and silence, both physical, both performed, both temporary, emergent and relational, alive."-Philip Thomas

This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

The Squid
The Squid's Ear!
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Solo Artist Recordings
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