Two commissioned pieces from Insub Meta Orchestra

John Eyles By

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Formed in September 2010, Switzerland's then 40-member Insub Meta Orchestra (IMO) issued its first album Archive #1 on the Insubordinations label in March 2012, closely followed by the digital release of Archive #2 in December 2012 and, by then 29-strong, Archive #3 on the new Insub label in February 2015.

Following the release of 13 and 27 (Another Timbre, 2017) and the vinyl LP Choices and Melodies (Insub, 2018), the two albums below mark IMO's return to releasing CDs on Insub and to their moving away from Cyril Bondi-d'incise compositions as featured on the last two releases; these two albums feature compositions commissioned by IMO, with the support of the Swiss cities Geneva and Lausanne. The fact that the commissioned composers are none other than Michael Pisaro and Magnus Granberg speaks volumes about the high esteem in which IMO is held...

Michael Pisaro / Insub Meta Orchestra
Achilles, Socrates, Diotima (The Poem of Names, No. 2)
Insub Records

Everything about these two albums makes them seem like companions. Their (uncredited) cover artwork is stylistically similar enough to suggest it originates from one source. Both albums were recorded in Geneva in 2018 by Another Timbre's Simon Reynell, which is good news about any album. Both feature the same 27-strong IMO, one in which two-thirds of the players date back to the ensemble's earliest days. The instrumentation is well balanced between strings, wind, percussion and electronics, with the inclusion of viola de gama, spinet, musical saw and recorders giving the ensemble a distinctive soundscape.

However, the two compositions themselves are distinctly different from one another, making use of the IMO in contrasting ways. Michael Pisaro's forty-eight-minute piece begins sparsely, with the sound of objects being moved about and electronic crackle, slowly joined by the sounds of other instruments which combine into a background over which a range of individual sounds are featured for a short while, the overall effect resembling a cast of characters being introduced individually. Gradually the soundscape fills out until, about a third of the way through the piece, a prolonged note on a horn signals a change, and the sounds of many instruments well up together; this sets the tone for the remainder of the album, with frequent sustained notes on horns being answered in kind by other instruments with washes of hissing electronics surrounding them; altogether, there is enough variation for the piece to avoid being labelled 'a drone,' the combined effect being decidedly dramatic, a credit to both Pisaro and IMO

Magnus Granberg / Insub Meta Orchestra
Als alle Vogel sangen mein Sehnen und Verlangen
Insub Records

This album is not Marcus Granberg's first outing on Insub; his impressive 2017 album Nattens Skogar (Version For Four Players), in the company of Cyril Bondi, d'incise and the Swedish violinist Anna Lindal, had that distinction and forged links which led to this IMO album.

Granberg's compositions are habitually inspired by past compositions by others, although never in ways obvious enough for him to be accused of borrowing. The title of Als alle Vogel sangen mein Sehnen und Verlangen ("As all the birds sang my longing and desire") may be a clue to the source material here, as it is a quote from "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai" ("In the beautiful month of May") the first song in Robert Schumann's song cycle "Dichterliebe," ("A Poet's Love"). Whether or not that is the case, the piece is characteristically Granberg, having his flair for melody and a loose, relaxed delivery. Despite having a large ensemble at his disposal, Granberg has noticeably not overcrowded the piece, instead having deployed the variety of instrumental sounds within IMO to keep the soundscape fresh and interesting as well as uncluttered.

Anyone already under the spell of Granberg, thanks to his Another Timbre recordings with his ensemble Skogen, will relish this IMO recording as it shares many of their strengths.

Tracks and Personnel

Achilles, Socrates, Diotima (The Poem of Names, No. 2)

Tracks: Achilles, Socrates, Diotima (The Poem of Names, No. 2.)

Personnel: Alexandra Bellon: percussion; Anna-Kaisa Meklin: viola da gamba; Brice Catherin: cello; Bruno Crochet: laptop; Christoph Schiller: spinet, objects; Christophe Berthet: soprano saxophone; Cyril Bondi: percussion, harmonium; d'incise: laptop, harmonium; Dorothea Schürch: musical saw; Eric Ruffing: analog synthesizer; Hans Koch: clarinet; Ivan Verda: guitar; Jamasp Jhabvala: violin; Lucien Danzeisen: objects; Marei Seuthe: cello: Maxime Hänsenberger: percussion; Patricia Bosshard: violin; Raphaël Ortis: laptop; Regula Gerber: double bass; Rodolphe Loubatière: percussion; Sandra Weiss: bassoon; Sébastien Branche: tenor saxophone; Steve Buchanan: alto saxophone; Teresa Hackel: recorders; Vincent Ruiz: double bass; Vinz Vonlanthen: guitar; Violeta Motta: traverso.

Als alle Vogel sangen mein Sehnen und Verlangen

Tracks: Als alle Vogel sangen mein Sehnen und Verlangen

Personnel: Exactly the same as above.

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