Friday, June 17, 2005

Landmarks (5)

Boudiwijn Buckinx: 1001 Sonates (BBWV 1988.09) for violin and piano. (In this series of Landmarks, I promise that this will be an exception in that I have not heard the piece in its entirety. I have heard about 100 of them, via a cassette on loan from Hauke Harder.) In these Sonates, some for the duo, and some for each soloist, Buckinx works simultaneously at the extremes of the miniature (most of the Sonates are brief) and the epic (the total duration is 24 hours). An individual Sonate may be urgent in character, but it might be nestled in a group of similar Sonates, giving the sequence a paradoxical sense of leisure. There is no detailed system or preplanning to the 1001; the pieces tend instead to group, regroup, recall, anticipate in an approach that is tactical, following intuitive, local logics that get tested out, thrown about, consumed, and then suddenly the atmosphere changes: we go someplace else, but everything remains the same. Sort of like traveling through Belgium, if you know what I mean.

(Perhaps as remarkable as the fact that Buckinx composed 1001 Sonates is the fact that they have been played, complete, several times, and there are really listeners out there who have heard the work, complete, more than once.)

I believe that Buckinx wisely takes advantage of being Belgian -- he's in debt neither to German insistance, structure, dialectic nor to French affect, taste, and style. There is more than a little surrealist flavor to his music, and Belgian surrealism (with the poles being Magritte and Ghelderode) at that, but I'm not expert enough to say anything more profound than that. He has the luxury to afford a sense of humor, and his individual hues of light and dark distinguish that particular humor from that of others.

Buckinx has also composed Nine Unfinished Symphonies. I profoundly regret not having heard these.

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