Ruins and Remains Wolfert Brederode, Matangi Quartet, Joost Lijbaart
Label: ECM Records
Subgenre: Crossover Jazz
Composer: Wolfert Breferode
Album including Album cover Booklet (PDF)
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- 1Ruins II03:02
- 5Ruins and Remains05:00
- 7Ruins I05:14
- 9Ruins III02:00
- 11Nothing for granted05:17
- 14Ruins IV03:24
Info for Ruins and Remains
Ruins and Remains, a suite for piano, string quartet and percussion, was composed by Wolfert Breferode in 2018, to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Over time, however, it has come to embody meanings broader and more personal, with wide-ranging resonances. “At a number of levels, the piece has to do with grief and loss and learning to stand up again,” Dutch pianist Brederode says. There is a vulnerable but resilient quality to the music, as it hovers over its emotional terrain, with moods both bleak and guardedly hopeful. Highly sensitive playing by Brederode, percussionist Joost Lijbaart and the Matangi Quartet (increasingly regarded as one of Holland’s most adventurous string quartets), distinguish a special album recorded in Bremen’s Sendesaal in August 2021 and produced by Manfred Eicher.
For his fourth ECM release as a leader, following the acclaimed quartet albums Currents and Post-Scriptum as well as the trio record Black Ice, Dutch pianist Wolfert Brederode introduces a very different, and very special, project. Ruins and Remains is a suite for piano, string quartet and percussion. Originally composed by Brederode in response to a commission for music to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the piece was premiered in November 2018. In the interim, however, it has come to embody meanings broader and more personal. “At a number of levels, the music has to do with grief and loss and learning to stand up again,” Brederode says. There is a vulnerable but resilient quality to the music, as it hovers over its emotional terrain, with moods alternately bleak and guardedly hopeful.
The musicians involved in the project have been friends since student days at The Hague’s Royal Conservatory. The Matangi Quartet, who have collaborated often with Wolfert Brederode in performances of his music for theatre, have meanwhile acquired a reputation as one of Holland’s most versatile string quartets, with a repertoire spanning baroque music, contemporary composition, jazz and more. (Lately they’ve been getting attention for their recordings of Schnittke, Silvestrov and Shostakovich.) Back in 2014, the Matangi Quartet included music by Brederode on one of their own albums, alongside pieces by Louis Andriessen and Chick Corea. As the Ruins and Remains project has progressed, the Matangi players have found increasing freedom inside it, also participating actively in its improvised sections.
Drummer Joost Lijbaart has worked across genres with Brederode since 2004 –playing jazz with Yuri Honing, and working in an improvising duo which strove to subsume individual identities in a single sound, “as if playing prepared piano together”, rather than percussion and piano duets. This sensibility finds an echo in the approach taken in Ruins and Remains.
“My goal is always for the music to be one thing,” says Wolfert Brederode. “I love to dive into the sound of the string quartet, and play as if part of that. I think with the quartet and with Joost we’ve found a special sound together which, in its way, is quietly radical.” Ruins and Remains has been mutating since its first performance. The idea of change is built into it: “Calling it ‘an evolving suite’ gave me the liberty to change pieces and add pieces as we went along.”
The process was accelerated during the session at Bremen’s Sendesaal. Violinist Maria-Paula Majoor notes that “the sound in the hall gives you the room to find the poetry behind the notes,” adding that Ruins and Remains had begun its life as an outgoing and rhythmical jazz piece and been transformed in the recording process into something else. We changed the soul of the music.”
In the collaborative work with producer Manfred Eicher, “new directions were opened up in the suite,” says Brederode. Transitions between written and improvised material became blurred: “We all focused on the blending of sounds and worked very much on dynamics.”
The result is a touching album of great subtlety, both texturally exploratory and deeply lyrical.
Wolfert Brederode, piano
Daniel Torrico Menacho, violin
Karsten Kleijer, viola
Arno van der Vuurst, violoncello
Joost Lijbaart, drums, percussion
piano playing and compositions are interlaced with subtle contrasts. His elegant melodies are the first thing that catches listeners' attention, brought to life by his precise and delicate touch. Few pianists are so recognizable while continuing to surprise. Brederode achieves that primarily by allowing for space: space for his own ideas, and for those of his fellow musicians; space for each individual note. Those notes form the building blocks of his melodies, which are catchy but never predictable and characterised by delicate shifts. And there is always a penetrating but elusive atmosphere of melancholy, with a restrained but threatening undertone.
Brederode often contrasts the gracefulness of his melodies with short bursts of vitriolic rhythmic variations, and that suffuses his music with energy. A restrained acidity often rings through, and becomes even more menacing by being held in check. It's no wonder Brederode gave one of his albums the title 'Black Ice,' referring to the treacherous gleam that is transparent but dangerously slick. That title also encapsulates the tension, which in Brederode's music remains an essential – albeit underlying – characteristic.
Brederode's music is accessible, yet its depths can never be fully plumbed. There is friction between control and letting go, between composition and improvisation, and between the search for restraint and stillness as apposed to the complex capriciousness of a deeply felt emotion. With Brederode, a single note can become a world in itself. Because that note has been chosen in a thoughtful and well-considered way, but primarily because it reflects Brederode's broad range of interests in theatre, film and literature. His fascination with the past is reflected in Brederode's passion for historically grounded novels by such authors as André Makine and Philippe Claudel. Another writer he admires, especially for his gritty rawness, is Dimitri Verhulst. Brederode is passionate about the Impressionists—both in art and music—including Claude Debussy. That is in line with his tendency to leave things to listeners' imaginations without filling in all the blanks. Additionally, he has an abiding love for Russian composers like Sergei Rachmaninoff and Alexander Scriabin . This devotion was sparked by Brederode's first piano teacher, who didn't assign him the standard practice repertoire. According to Brederode: 'Instead, I played Russian children's songs, remarkably simple, but with beautiful melodies.'
After graduating from The Hague Conservatoire, Brederode attracted international attention with his atmospheric, spatial music. He founded the Nimbus and Batik groups and led a quintet with drummer Eric Ineke. Brederode also formed a successful duo with drummer Joost Lijbaart. In 2007, his album 'Currents' appeared on ECM, a renowned label he is still affiliated with. In 2011, also on ECM, he released 'Posts Scriptum' with his international quartet. That album was followed in 2016 by his trio CD 'Black Ice.' In 2022 Brederodes's impressive composition 'Ruins and Remains' will be released, a sensitive interplay recorded with drummer Joost Lijbaart and the Matangi Quartet. 'Ruins and Remains' is a work that perfectly sums up Brederode's style, composed with vision and a sense of atmosphere while also giving the musicians plenty of freedom.
As both a bandleader and a sideman, Brederode plays entirely in the service of the music. Nevertheless, his playing is immediately recognizable because of its focus and subtle intensity. In addition, he always allows for a great deal of contrast, especially in how he elegantly makes a piece's dynamics his own, creating an energetic twist. Brederode also performs with the Swiss singer Susanne Abbuehl and with the Dutch saxophonist Yuri Honing. He has had a longstanding duo with percussionist Joost Lijbaart. In addition, he performs with such renowned international musicians as the singer Jeanne Lee, the percussionist Marilyn Mazur, the violinist Mark Feldman, the reed-players Michel Portal and David Liebman, and the trumpeters Mathias Eick and Arve Henriksen. Brederode has released acclaimed albums with pianist Martin Fondse and saxophonist Kika Sprangers, among others, and his works have twice been awarded an Edison. He regularly receives rave reviews both at home and abroad.
The last twenty-two years has seen Matangi grow into one of the most prominent and versatile ensembles in the Dutch music landscape and on the international stage. Its four members are all independent and distinctive musicians, but what binds them is an unbridled creative curiosity: for new music styles, and for as yet unknown repertoire and unexpected collaborations with other art forms, from cabaret to dance.
The quartet has never limited itself to one style of music since its foundation in 1999 at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and the Rotterdam Conservatory. It has always embarked on new adventures, from classical to jazz and from dance to pop.
The Matangis have shared the stage with top classical musicians such as Maarten Koningsberger, Tania Kross, Paolo Giacometti, Severin von Eckardstein and Quatuor Ébène, and they have also ventured into crossover projects, including with comedians Herman van Veen and Youp van 't Hek, with bandoneon player Carel Kraayenhof, with jazz trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and pianist Martin Fondse, jazz pianist Michiel Braam, DJ Kypski, jazz vocalists Mathilde Santing and Ruben Hein and singer-songwriters Lori Lieberman and Tom McRae. With such pioneering forays outside of classical music, Matangi knows how to enthuse new audiences for the string quartet.
The quartet has appeared at numerous festivals, including the Delft Chamber Music Festival, the Grachtenfestival, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Festival de Carthage in Tunisia, the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, the International Conservatoire Festival in St Petersburg, North Sea Jazz and the Liberation Festival Utrecht.
With their own annual (Un)heard Music Festival in The Hague, the Matangi Quartet surprises listeners with music that they have often never heard. They shine a spotlight on works that are rarely if ever heard in Dutch concert venues, and they also make connections with more well-known repertoire.
In 2002 the quartet was awarded the prestigious Kersjes van de Groenekan Prize, which is awarded annually to exceptional talent in Dutch chamber music.
All four musicians perform on instruments of Dutch workmanship. The cello and first violin have been provided on loan by the Dutch National Musical Instrument Foundation.
Matangi has released several CDs with Challenge Records International, Matangi Music, and Deutsche Grammophon. Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad wrote about their most recent CD, Canto Ostinato, Strings Attached (2020): “Matangi is emerging as the ideal interpreter. Anyone who has heard this quartet’s performance of Beethoven's through-composed Fourteenth String Quartet knows that these strings can weave a hypnotic long arc of tension. They also manage to evoke the addictive enchantment of Canto Ostinato.”