Szilard Mezei Ensemble: Nad / Reed (2008)
Pointless arguments over where the geographical heart of the music lies these days are rendered only more so by music like that on Nad / Reed by the Szilard Mezei Ensemble. Coming as it does from Hungary, and with a burst of creativity, it's definitively human and thus not the product of any nationalor indeed continentalsensibility.
That said, it's rife with elements that stem from a national culture even while it's alive with a dignity that transcends it. Thus the shifting sands of the opening "Cirkula/Circle Saw" set out a stall rich in diversity and nuance, which at times borders on the comedic in a way not dissimilar to Willem Breuker's Kollektief. Free play and composition co-exist quite happily, and the radical shifts of the latter happily don't make for discontinuity. Instead, the piece as a whole seems to exist as such by mutual agreement. Svetlana Novakovic's flute is notable in solo terms as she seems intent on threading delicate lines both against and through a tempestuous backdrop.
"Esolovak / Rain Horses," in its opening, is alive with color. As this is set against a heavy undercurrent, it's only more notable, with the presence of two drummers contributing in no small part to that. In solo, Bogdan Rankovic's alto sax has about it a dry but not acerbic quality, the notes seeming to curdle slightly before emerging from the bell of the horn. He seems, on this one also, to be in thrall to some folk melody even while he strains against its limits. The resulting tension remains tantalizingly unresolved, even when the leader takes up the solo duties on viola.
The polyphony of "Hep 1" and "Hep 2" is evocative of nothing save this group's collective ideal, and Rankovic the soloist comes into his own again on the latter. He brings his arguably "correct" technique to bear upon material that resolves with aplomb any dilemma there might be between collective endeavor and individual expression.
The foreboding of "Fohasz/Petition" closes the program out in a fashion hardly obvious from what has preceded it, but this is only indicative of beautifully realized music. Again, the potentially precarious balance between ensemble and soloist is struck without a care, and the resulting accomplishment enhances the proceedings to no end.
Track Listing: Cirkula/Circle Saw; Esolovak/Rain Horses; Hep 1; Hep 2; Fohasz/Petition.
Personnel: Svetlana Novakovic: flute; Emoke Zakany: oboe; Bogdan Rankovic: alto sax, bass clarinet; Slobodan Dragas: trumpet; Branislav Aksin: trombone; Kornel Papista: tuba; Szilard Mezei: viola; Albert Marcos: cello; Viktor Molnar: cello; Ivan Burka: vibes, marimba; Milan Aleksic: piano, celeste; Ervin Malina: bass; Hunor G. Szabo: drums, marimba; Istvan Csik: drums, percussion.