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Classical Music Review

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Dark Days


Composer: Scott Wollschleger
Performed by: Karl Larson (piano)
Label: New Focus Recordings
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 23 April 2021

Composer Scott Wollschleger and pianist Karl Larson release Dark Days, an album featuring 10 of Wollschleger’s deeply personal works for solo piano, on New Focus Recordings. These introspective pieces, performed here by his close friend and frequent collaborator, give listeners a glimpse into the intimate depths of Wollschleger’s working process and the utilization of his rare synesthesia through the tactile use of the piano...

Avant-garde classical music is something that very rarely excites me. For the most part it's defined by composers getting the musicians to play their instruments in unconventional ways (blowing too hard on a wind instrument or bashing the keys of a piano like a toddler). Scott Wollschleger's Dark Days is just as lacklustre as you'll be expecting. Long, boring tunes that go nowhere ('Lyric-Fragment'). Quirky, twinkly finger exercises ('Secret Machine No.4'). A low key piece, punctuated by hitting a high note every now and then ('Brontal No. 11 “I-80”')... All the boxes are ticked. Oh, the dull predictability of it all.

Thanks to the global pandemic, there's been enough misery, monotony and blandness in most people's lives without subjecting people to even more via their listening choices. As "real" and earthy as Wollschleger's Dark Days is... it's not a work that is easily digestible.

Who gets excited by this sort of music? I've never understood. The album was composed between 2007-2020, with the program order on Dark Days tracing the evolution of Wollschleger’s compositional style. It's intended as an experiential journey. But what sort of journey I dread to think? Maybe a train journey away from a nice holiday back to the doom and gloom of a mindless job?

Pianist Karl Larson does a wonderful job (although to be perfectly honest every fifth note he may have played incorrectly! No one would know), but there's only so much he can do with the material he's given.

If bland, very simplistic, piano pieces are your thing you'll fall in love with this. Everyone else will be left nonplussed. In striving to be different and free from the shackles of the rules we rather predictably fall into banality.


Darren Rea

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