Composer Ofer Pelz celebrates an eight year collaboration with Israeli based Meitar Ensemble with Trinité, a collection of five works that highlight Pelz' intricate hybrid ensemble textures and deft command over applying repetition with variation to looped material. With a special emphasis on the illuminating possibilities afforded by prepared piano writing in solo and chamber settings, Pelz' music is both experimental and grounded in unfolding narrative.
|Amit Dolberg, augmented piano, Ofer Pelz, electronics||7:56|
|Meitar Ensemble, Gilad Harel, clarinet, Moshe Aharonov, violin, Jonathan Gotlibovitch, cello, Amit Dolberg, prepared piano, Guy Feder, conductor||11:00|
|Roy Amotz, alto flute, Ofer Pelz, electronics||7:23|
|Meitar Ensemble, Roy Amotz, flute, Gilad Harel, clarinet, Moshe Aharonov, violin, Jonathan Gotlibovitch, cello, Amit Dolberg, prepared piano, Pierre-André Valade, conductor||12:06|
Blanc sur Blanc
|Roy Amotz, flute, Gilad Harel, clarinet, Amit Dolberg, prepared piano, Quatuor Ardeo, Carole Petitdemange, violin, Olivia Hughes, violin, Lea Boesch, viola, Joëlle Martinez, cello, Renaud Déjardin, conductor|
Backward inductions is scored for “augmented piano” (prepared and heavily amplified, with contact mics triggering auxiliary percussion instruments) and performed here by Meitar’s artistic director and pianist Amit Dolberg. The compositional organization of the piece works backwards from an original, multiple layered structure of repetitive gestures. Pelz makes small variations in phrase contours, removing a note in a sequence, repeating a grouping, reversing the direction of one of the component motives. In doing so, he not only creates propulsive dynamism in the subtly varied lines, he places the extended sounds of the prepared piano in slightly different spots in the rhythmic scaffolding. The work achieves a hypnotic balance between mechanistic impulses that are nevertheless animated with life and character.
Repetition with variation is a guiding principle in Pelz’ music, and Chinese Whispers zooms in on this developmental technique. Taking inspiration from the game associated with the title (otherwise known as “telephone” in the United States), we hear similar material morph and transform as it is heard in new iterations. Pelz organizes the piece into several sections, each of which focuses on components of the original “message,” from glitchy textural machines to disembodied sustained material. In this way, he puts his finger on a fascinating feature of communication, our individual capacity to focus on different portions of a whole, and to filter them through our own biases of understanding.Read More
This approach to segmented sound can also be heard in Convergence for alto flute and electronics, performed here by Roy Amotz. Pelz explores granulations of sounds in contrast with their fully realized incarnations. The electronics function often as the middle-ground between fragmentary sounds and sustained ones, extending the former through a series of echoes and delays, and dissecting and manipulating the latter.
Like Chinese Whispers, marchons, marchons is scored for the full Meitar instrumentation of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and prepared piano. For the first seven minutes of the work, it is decidedly more inward facing, eschewing the rhythmic propulsion of the first two tracks in favor of blooms of hazy harmonies connected by glissandi and ethereal harmonics. Written for the Expo Milano 2015, whose theme was “feeding the planet, energy for life,” Pelz reflected on phrases in the French and Israeli national anthems that position themselves at odds with that mission, lending the piece a critical stance. In the final four and half minutes of the piece, we hear darting, sardonic ensemble passages, perhaps a more direct challenge to live up to the Expo’s credo.
Three members of the Meitar Ensemble are joined by string quartet Quatuor Ardeo for the final work in two movements, Blanc sur Blanc. Pelz chooses to amplify the string quartet and uses them as one might employ a “tape” part in an electro-acoustic piece – to create a sense of spatialization, timbral augmentation, comment on and frame a sonic environment for the other instruments. Again we hear a penchant for loops and repetition as a structural component in the “First Movement,” where Pelz’s loops accumulate in a manner he describes as a “logarithmic spiral,” accumulating material that becomes the enlarged loop before the process resumes. The “Epilogue” is a contrasting movement of sustained lines, quietly delicate yet charged with intensity and direction. It is a powerful way to end this collection of mostly very active music – a glimpse at an uneasy inner world lying behind the permutations and transformations of material.
– Dan Lippel
Track 1 recorded, 2019, at the studio of Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Tel Aviv University
Rafi Eshel – recording and mix; Ofer Pelz – electronic technician
Track 2 recorded, December 2013, at the Ogen Studio, Kibbutz HaOgen Mix 2015 at CIRMMT, Montreal
Mix 2021 at Studio Sophronik, Montreal
Shlomi Gvili - recording technician
Eyal Mahabad - recording assistant
Noam Dorembus - recording producer and tonmeister Ofer Pelz - mix 2015
Sylvaine Arnaud - mix 2021
Track 3 recorded, June 2013, at the music faculty studio, University of Montreal Mix 2013 at CIRMMT, Montreal
Mix 2021 at Studio Sophronik, Montreal
Paolo Vignaroli – flute sampling Samuel Bonnet - recording technician Matthieu Duvault - recording assistant Julie Delisle - musical assistant
Ofer Pelz - recording producer
Ofer Pelz, Samuel Bonnet - mix 2014
Sylvaine Arnaud - mix 2021
Track 4 recorded in concert at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Bourgie Hall October 27, 2017
Tracks 5 and 6 recorded live, November 26th 2011, at the Art en Résonance Festival, organized by the Bibliothèque Publique d’Information, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Mix 2021 at Studio Sophronik, Montreal
Hervé Le Dorlot - recording technician and mix 2011
Sylvaine Arnaud - mix 2021
Produced by Ofer Pelz and Meitar Ensemble
Mastered by Padraig Buttner-Schnirer
Cover © by Mathieu Boris (Mateo)
Album design by Ofer Pelz
This production has been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts
Ofer Pelz composes music for diverse combinations of instruments and electroacoustic media. He is also an active improviser and the co-founder of Whim Ensemble and Ensemble Tesse.
Pelz holds a doctorate in Composition from the University of Montreal. He has also studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, as well as at the CNR Blanc Mesnil, CNSM, and IRCAM in Paris.
The work of Ofer Pelz has been recognized by earning many international prizes including two ACUM awards, French ‘Commande d’état’ and the Ernst Von Siemens Grant. His music is played regularly in festivals such as IRCAM-ManiFeste, La Bien- nale di Venezia, MATA Festival, Nuova Consonanza, Heidelberger Biennale für Neue Musik, and Cervantino festival. Meitar Ensemble, Cairn Ensemble, Ardeo String Quartet, The Israel Contemporary Players, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Quasar Quartet, Architek Percussion, Geneva Camerata, and Neue Vocalsolisten are among the ensembles that plays Pelz’s music. Pelz has collaborated with several dance choreographers, among them François Raffinot.
Praised by the New York Times for their “excellence, poise and precision”, the Meitar Ensemble, founded in 2004 by artistic director Amit Dolberg, has established itself as a prominent array of virtuosos specializing in contemporary music.
Over the past fifteen years they have commissioned and premiered over 300 new works. The ensemble regularly collaborates with renowned composers including Mauro Lanza (Composer in residence), Philippe Leroux, Helmut Lachenmann, Georg Friedrich Haas, Philippe Hurel, Ivan Fedele, Chaya Czernowin and many leading Israeli composers. The recordings of the ensemble were published and released by Soupir, NEOS, and VERSO.
Based in Tel-Aviv, they have been featured at some of the most prestigious venues worldwide, including the Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Purcell Room (London), and the Radial System (Berlin).
The ensemble has been acclaimed for its significant contribution to the development of Israeli culture and music, receiving the Binyaminy Award (2006), Partosh Award (2008), and the Landau Award (2010). Their Philippe Leroux profile CD, ‘Ailes’, conducted by Pierre-André Valade (Conductor in residence), won the Coups de Cœur prize of the Académie Charles Cros as one of the outstanding albums of contemporary music in 2018.
Intricate prepared-piano ricochets and barbed ensemble alchemy converge to permeate the Meitar Ensemble’s latest release – a portrait of music by Montreal-based Israeli composer Ofer Pelz. The five pieces on the disc represent an eight-year collaboration between the composer and the virtuosic ensemble.
Pelz’s clear and punctuated sound world is well suited for the bravura and precision of intent capable by the Meitar musicians. The first work, Backward inductions, for augmented piano, evokes a process whereby reverse reasoning achieves a sequence of optimal actions. This dynamic music produces fluidity through compartmentalized yet spinning lines and tempestuous interruptions. A piece titled Convergence for alto flute and electronics is a wondrous barrage of granulated tinctures that envelopes the ear and the mind. The chamber work, marchons, marchons, performed in Toronto when New Music Concerts presented Meitar at the Music Gallery in 2017, offers delicate and distant conversations spoken in metallic whispers. Finally, a piece written in two movements for flute, prepared piano and amplified string quartet titled Blanc sur Blanc begins with a dance-like mysteriousness followed by windswept panorama.
The confident nature of Pelz’s music is propelled forward by what is clearly a process-oriented approach – yet this attribute also contains a wealth of originality and expression. The music and performances on this release are as compelling as they are refreshing. Bravo to all.
— Adam Scime, 9.21.2021
No doubt it is time for something different, something notable in the latest High Modern realms. I have just the thing. Ofer Pelz, an imaginative sound color composer, steps forth with a series of prepared piano-centered chamber works that celebrates an eight year collaboration with the Israel-based ensemble Meitar Ensemble. The album is entitled Trinite (New Focus Recordings FCR 303).
The opening salvo rivets the listening self in a dynamic, rhythmically complex dynamo of prepared piano amplified with contact mikes that also trigger percussion instruments. All is nicely performed by Amit Dolberg, who deftly handles the complex multiple layers of gestural expressions.
From there we go on to four more chamber works, each a special sound world unto itself.
So we experience the expressively hushed "Chinese Whispers" for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, prepared piano and amplification. It plays further upon the sorts of atmospherics Feldman and Crumb did so well. Pelz finds his own way into the sound labyrinth possibilities. The remaining four works continue in the color-atmospheric zone each in their own way, with impressive eloquence, with convincing sound personality and sensitive performances that do the music full justice.
So we come to appreciate "Convergence" for alto flute and electronics, "marchons, marchons" for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and prepared piano, and finally the two movements of "Blanc sur Blanc" for flute, clarinet, prepared piano and amplified string quartet.
It is just what you need for some refreshing poetic forays into timbral brilliance. Bravo.
— Grego Applegate Edwards, 7.05.2021
As I listen to the five pieces on Trinité, Ofer Pelz strikes me less as composer (though he assuredly is that) than sound explorer, someone engaged in setting forth a particular ‘problem' and examining it from a number of different angles. A highly developed sensitivity to timbre and texture are also central to these settings, with the Israeli-born (in 1978) and Montréal-based composer fortunate to have the Meitar Ensemble as his partner for the recording. Operating out of Tel-Aviv, the group features five instrumentalists—two strings (violinist Moshe Aharonov, cellist Jonathan Gotlibovitch), two woodwinds (flutist Roy Amotz, clarinetist Gilad Harel), and piano, the latter played by artistic director Amit Dolberg—who're augmented by the strings of Quatuor Ardeo on the album's closing piece; conductors Guy Feder, Pierre-André Valade,and Renaud Déjardin also contribute to separate performances on the fifty-two-minute release, the second issued under Pelz's name.
His unusual background naturally informs the character of his music, and as such his studies at places such as the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, IRCAM in Paris, and the University of Montreal (where he earned his doctorate in Composition) have profoundly influenced the music he creates. Consistent with its creator's cross-cultural worldview, Trinité was recorded in three different countries. By his own account, Pelz's music traffics in what he calls ‘unstable repetition'—elements that transform through repetition, and in so doing sustain palpable tension. A spatial dimension also permeates his approach in the way elements inhabit shifting positions.
The opening Backward inductions orients the listener to his electroacoustic approach when prepared piano patterns appear, their rapid flow accompanied by percussion sounds triggered by contact mics and the title referencing a structural design that sees the piece unfolding in reverse from a set of originating patterns. Notes are removed and directions altered, the result a dizzying constellation of dynamic movement. The even headier Chinese Whispers derives its title from the familiar game (aka “telephone”) wherein transformations emerge as material's passed from one person to the next. Here, of course, it's the original sound cell that undergoes mutation, with changes arising in separate sections over eleven minutes. It's highly possible, however, that your attention will less focus on monitoring that particular process than simply attending to the ever-changing sound design. Fragments of strings, piano, flute, and clarinet interlace rapidly during the first half before the tempo slows and the presentation shifts to long, tension-tightening glissandos and breathing-related effects.
As Backward inductions spotlights Dolberg, so too does Convergence for Amotz. Scored for alto flute and electronics, the material shows how effectively Pelz's music bridges acoustic and electronic realms. Natural flute phrasings appear alongside swarms of fluttering noises, with the whole suggesting a furious intermingling between dissimilar yet nonetheless related factions. Hermetic by comparison is marchons, marchons, which, despite featuring the full Meitar Ensemble, creeps softly with crepuscular, slow-motion stealth through a shadowy hall of mirrors for seven minutes until animated gestures and stabbing figures enliven the piece for its final four. Structured in two movements, the closing Blanc sur Blanc benefits from the expansion Quatuor Ardeo brings to the performance; Pelz, to his credit, again achieves a careful balance between the seven instruments—three from Meitar and the four of the string quartet—as each remains audible despite the intricacy of the cross-patterning. While each of the five pieces featured on Trinité is conceptually and formally distinct, all are ever-evolving panoramas that captivate for being so restless and alive.
— Ron Schepper, 9.26.2021
Not to be confused with composer Walter Pelz, Ofer Pelz (b. 1978) gained a doctorate from the University of Montreal; he has studied also at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and, among others, at IRCAM in Paris. Hearing that his music has been performed at the Venice Biennale might help place his aesthetic, which is Modernist and explorative, particularly in his way of the deconstruction of the familiar: the finessing of a texture to an optimal sequence in Backward inductions; the trans-formation/bastardization of an original in Chinese Whispers, the move from segmented to continuous sound in Convergence, the recontextualizing of national songs in marchons, marchons; and finally the move from point to line in Blanc sur Blanc.
The piece Backward inductions for "augmented piano" (2014-17) is performed by the pianist of the Meitar Ensemble, Amit Dolberg. The idea of reasoning backwards from the end of a solution implied by the title finds its corollary in the musical processes in reducing the original music to an optimal sequence. The opening moments could easily be modern jazz but as the piece continues, we enter more into Cageian territory. (The piece is, after all, for "augmented piano": Percussive objects and instruments are triggered by an amplification system; contact microphones on the piano strings capture audio signals that get directed to transducers on those percussive objects.) Originally composed in 2014 for a concert in Montreal, Backward inductions was revised in 2017 for the present performer and recorded in 2019 at Tel Aviv University. Both engineer Rafi Eshel and the technician (the composer himself) create the perfect environment.
Written for a mixed ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, prepared piano, and amplification in 2013, Chinese Whispers explores the idea of transformation of a sound object. I had no idea this was known as "telephone game" in the USA, but it is a delightful children's game, whatever one calls it. Here, the envelope is expanded to include stuttering and respiration in an elusive, quiet (= "whispered") piece where rhythm dances with unpredictable steps. There is a process of examination here of the ini-tial gestures of the piece, in which the composer zooms in on different facets that might not be imme-diately noticeable and examines them (the sound equivalent of holding them up to the light, perhaps).
Scored for alto flute (Roy Amotz of the Meitar Ensemble) and electronics, Convergence (2011) moves from active to stationary. The use of electronics is superb; it is truly an extension of Pelz's vo-cabulary, the acoustic and electronic operating in conversation with each other and in doing so pre-senting us with a most modern take on beauty itself. The rarefied soundscape of marchons, marchons (2015/2018) takes the rather more disturbing lines from the Marseillaise and an Israeli national song, both of which refer to blood soaking into soil, as an inspiration. The restrained nature of the writing (for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and prepared piano) seems to invoke a frozen, even numb effect. It is all the more effective, therefore, when strings start to bite and the piano finds a new velocity.
In the final piece, Blanc sur Blanc (2011), the addition of an amplified string quartet adds to the sound palette. Inspired by two illustrations, the piece is in two movements, the first and major panel inspired by an image of many points and fragments, and the second, "Epilogue," one of long lines. While the title reminds me of Rothko, certainly, the activity of the first movement seems to move away from that line of association, only to bring it right back in the strangely beautiful second move-ment, where things move at glacial pace, where post-Bartakian buzzings bring about a "Night Music" not of our planet. The music seems to be sucked into a void or even another dimension; it leaves a strange feeling of unease in its wake.
Brilliantly inventive music is achieved through a seeking, inquisitive mind; the music of Ofer Pelz is to be celebrated.
— Colin Clarke, 9.27.2021
After studying in Jerusalem and then in Paris, it was at the University of Montreal that Ofer Pelz obtained a doctorate in composition. The Meitar Ensemble is based in Tel Aviv, but this record nonetheless offers several opportunities to hear, if only through the band, "the sound of Montreal." We discovered its conductor in residence, Pierre-André Valade, during the first edition of the MNM festival in 2003, when he had come to direct the OSM. The quintet follows him here in marchons, marchons, a commission from Expo Milano 2015 in which the composer cleverly diverted the theme of the exhibition, "Nourishing the planet" by taking inspiration from an excerpt from the chorus of La Marseillaise, "let impure blood water our furrows!". The recording of this piece was made in concert at the Bourgie Hall of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Chinese Whispers, commissioned by the ensemble who performed it in Montreal in 2015, offers another fine example of the composer's work, which is inspired by spectral music techniques to delve into the heart of sound and dissect the noises that compose it. Pelz uses different methods of work, such as exploring the concept of "unstable repetition" (which has nothing to do with what one might generally understand by "repetitive music"). In the prepared piano piece Backward inductions, performed by ensemble artistic director Amit Dolberg. he adds to this way of doing things the idea of reverse engineering; he starts from the last notes of the piece to imagine what could have led there, and it produces something very rhythmic which makes it seem like the pianist is tap dancing on his keyboard (no, no, I like that!).
The disc also includes a piece for flute and electronics which was recorded at the University of Montreal. Much like in Backward inductions, Convergence is built on inverted granulation, with small sounds becoming big (to put it simply!). Finally, in the last piece, Blanc sur Blanc, the Ardeo string quartet joins the quintet to perform under the direction of Renaud Déjardin a piece that once again puts forward compositional concepts inspired by mathematics and derived from the electroacoustics (logarithmic spiral, accumulation of loops, etc.). The album cover reproduces a work by Mateo, a French artist who is also based in Montreal. A composer to watch in a program near you (here, there and elsewhere).
(translation from Google Translate, original in French below)
Après des études à Jérusalem, puis à Paris, c’est à l’Université de Montréal qu’Ofer Pelz a obtenu un doctorat en composition. L’ensemble Meitar est basé à Tel-Aviv, mais ce disque offre néanmoins plusieurs occasions d’entendre, fut-ce par la bande, « le son de Montréal ». On a découvert son chef en résidence, Pierre-André Valade, lors de la première édition du festival MNM, en 2003, alors qu’il était venu diriger l’OSM. Le quintette le suit ici dans marchons, marchons, une commande de Expo Milano 2015 dans laquelle le compositeur a savamment détourné le thème de l’exposition, « Nourrir la planète » en s’inspirant d’un extrait du refrain de La Marseillaise, « qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons! ». L’enregistrement de cette pièce a été réalisé en concert à la salle Bourgie du Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal.
Chinese Whispers, une commande de l’ensemble qui l’a d’ailleurs interprétée à Montréal en 2015, offre un autre bel exemple du travaille du compositeur, qui s’inspire des techniques de la musique spectrale pour fouiller le cœur du son et décortiquer les bruits qui le composent. Pelz utilise différentes méthodes de travail, comme l’exploration du concept de « répétition instable » (qui n’a rien à voir avec ce que l’on peut entendre généralement par « musique répétitive »). Dans la pièce pour piano préparé Backward inductions, que joue le directeur artistique de l’ensemble, Amit Dolber. il ajoute à cette façon de faire l’idée de rétro-ingénierie ; il part des dernières notes de la pièce pour imaginer ce qui a pu y mener, et ça produit quelque chose de très rythmé qui donne l’impression que la pianiste danse à claquettes sur son clavier (non, non, j’aime ça!).
Le disque compte aussi une pièce pour flûte et électronique qui a été enregistrée à l’Université de Montréal. Un peu comme dans Backward inductions, Convergence se construit sur une granulation inversée, les petits sons devenant grands (pour le dire simplement!). Enfin, dans la dernière pièce, Blanc sur Blanc, le quatuor à cordes Ardeo se joint au quintette pour interpréter sous la direction de Renaud Déjardin une pièce qui met encore une fois de l’avant des concepts compositionnels inspirés des mathématiques et dérivés de l’électroacoustique (spirale logarithmique, accumulation de boucles, etc.). La pochette du disque reproduit une œuvre de Mateo, un artiste français qui est lui aussi basé à Montréal. Un compositeur à surveiller dans un programme près de chez vous (ici, là et ailleurs).
— Réjean Beaucage, 7.19.2021
The revered composer Ofer Pelz celebrates his 8 year collaboration with the Israeli outfit Meitar Ensemble, as they offer us 5 compositions that are carefully textured and full of experimental and chamber ideas that are pieced together meticulously.
“Backward Inductions” starts the listen with playful, dynamic keys from Amit Dolberg’s augmented piano, where Pelz’s subtle electronics add much appeal to the heavily amplified setting, and “Chinese Whispers” follows with the Meitar Ensemble offering plucked violin, ominous clarinet and sparing flute manipulated in glitchy, unpredictable ways.
The middle track, “Convergence”, pairs Roy Amotz’s quivering alto flute alongside atypical electronics from Pelz as space and echo are part of the equation, while “marchons, marchons” showcases Meitar Ensemble’s minimal capabilities, dancing keys and sharp strings that flow with a cinematic and rhythmic purpose.
The final track, “Blanc sur blanc”, exits the listen with much mystery, as keys, violin, cello, flute and clarinet all interact amid an exciting electro and acoustic formula that embraces looping and repetition.
Pelz has already paved an exceptional career, and together with Meitar Ensemble they are birthing innovative and thriving chamber music that few could replicate.
— Tom Haugen, 7.31.2021
Pelz is a pianist and serious composer born in Israel (1978) and now living and working in Canada (Montreal) (you can immediately tell a Canadian from the 'Fr/En' switch on the web page ...) This aptly titled album has five pieces, all performed by the Meitar Ensemble, a chamber music ensemble from Israel, partly supported by the Ardeo Quartet. Pelz has three citizenships, Canadian, French, and Israeli (quite a feat) and these elements are audible in his work - the close cooperation with the Tel Aviv Meitar Ensemble, the French influences in titles and musical inspiration (he studied in Paris), and the fearless and fresh Canadian approach to all things creative.
Why would this album be reviewed here? Pelz has an approach of improvisation and composition that transfers elements of musique concrète and electro-acoustics back to the purely acoustic (though electrically amplified) world.
The first piece is for prepared piano - which immediately conjures up John Cage associations. But this piece is slightly more on the melodic and artistic side, if you wish, though adding the extra background 'noises' from acoustically triggered percussion and as a result sounding a little 'dirtier than the Cage compositions. The second is 'Chinese Whispers'. It deliberately repeats a short phrase, changing bits until the original is unintelligible after ten minutes. This principle of composition also re-appears in the other pieces: short bits of music, repeated, varied, re-assembled, floating above and below each other. Indeed - this reminds me of electro-acoustic, industrial and improvised music, minus the 'industrial'. You could imagine these pieces played by pure electronics, and they would be attributed to the usual suspects as Henry, Bayle or Chopin straight away. You do not always realize the proximity of a flute sound to a sine wave - as they talk to each other on the third piece. 'Marchons' is a take on the Marseillaise, gradually building to a climax, before then petering out in a long string glissando. It is supposed to refer to the line 'Let an impure blood soak our fields!', combining this with an Israeli national song claiming 'the blood that springs/nourishes the soil' - I must admit, whatever this message indicates, I did not get it. The final piece is split in two, a lively first part that you could consider typical 'new music', and a second that is worthy of any drone music. But acoustic!
All in all, this is a worthwhile experience for anyone wanting to broaden their horizon and test the waters of 'acoustic electronics'.
— TM, 7.13.2021
I first came across the work of the Montreal based Israeli composer Ofer Pelz through David Greilsammer’s wonderful recital disc Labyrinth (2020, Naïve V7084). The two pieces included there give a good indication of his style but not the scope of his output. This new recording gave me the opportunity to get to know his work a lot better. If I were forced to apply a label to his music I would probably call it “modernist minimalism” though I suspect that label must already be taken. What I mean by it is that the types of sounds, melodies and harmonies he uses are fairly modernist whereas his approach to developing his material has similarities to the minimalism of Reich and Glass. The composer, himself, describes this aspect of his music as ‘unstable repetition’.
The second track on this CD, Chinese Whispers, exemplifies this style. Material is repeated but, like Chinese Whispers, it gets altered with each repetition. The opening track, Backward inductions is meant to be this process in reverse though how the listener is meant to be able to distinguish the difference escapes me.
As a quite general gripe about a lot of recordings and programme notes on contemporary classical, too often these are written in such a way as to require fairly specific technical knowledge to be comprehensible. Perhaps it is the case that only the initiates listen to this music, but personally I find this a great pity. I have never understood why the Tate Modern is knee deep in people (even in Covid times!) and contemporary classical music is so ignored. This present disc seems to me to offer great rewards for the curious listener and, like a lot of modern music, is not as ferociously off-putting as it might seem.
Returning to Backward inductions, I would be very surprised if this presents any difficulties for anyone familiar with Bartók and Philip Glass. It is written for what is referred to as an augmented piano. What that means is that sensors placed inside the piano are used to trigger various percussion instruments as the piano keys are struck. In essence, a kind of deluxe prepared piano. As with any clever musical idea, it lives or dies depending on whether it works for the listener. I found it an amusing and surprisingly catchy effect as the ear seeks to anticipate the percussive contributions. Stylistically, I think anyone who enjoys the piano music of Messiaen will find a lot to their taste here. There is a sense of vibrant motion to Pelz’s music which I find very appealing.
Convergences is a tougher listen, though ultimately a rewarding one. If I understood the programme note correctly, it is concerned with the elements that combine to produce sound and with the way they are combined. As a listening experience, this means the music becomes gradually more complex from a rather fractured beginning. It is scored for flute and electronics. The latter allows the breaking down and recombining of the music in such a way that, as it progresses, it leads to the convergence on a single note that gives the work its title. In some ways this functions rather like the relationship between the tension of dissonance followed by its release in consonance in tonal music. Certainly this piece generates both great tension and, toward the end, a satisfying sense of release.
Marchons, marchons combines elements of all three of the preceding pieces. It begins with a lengthy exploration of different timbres and tonal qualities often at the edge of audibility. These elements slowly coalesce and gather momentum and structure until the second main section follows the “modernist minimalism” pattern of Backward inductions and Chinese Whispers. Its theme is a rather gory passage in the Marseillaise about “letting impure blood soak our fields”. The connection with the music seems obscure to me and I found it easier to relate to the idea of nourishing the planet – the theme of the festival for which it was written. The first section seeming parched and the second more energetic and revived. The rhythm which the music develops becomes an organising factor in making sense of the disparate sounds of the opening. This is bracing music but its vitality means that it is hardly daunting. The sudden return of the opening music is highly dramatic and rather haunting in effect.
Blanc sur blanc, the final work, extends this approach in what seems a logical direction – towards mathematical logarithms as a means of extending patterns. The patterns are little musical phrases used in the manner of tape loops which are repeated and reorganised into ever bigger and more complex patterns. The manner of development is more organic than this suggests, and is rather closer to the construction of larger musical forms from motives found in the music of Brahms and Wagner than might be supposed at first listen. As with a lot of contemporary music at the moment, what constitutes a musical element here seems to extend to anything that makes a noise. As a result we get all manner of scrapes, scratches, breaths and taps as well as more conventional musical sounds caught up in the organising patterns. To my ears, this makes for a highly diverting and often surprising listen but one that never descends to the level of just making noise.
All that remains to be said is that the performances are totally committed and that the recording standards are extremely high.
This is a timely summary of the work of a distinctive and attractive voice on the contemporary scene and I very much look forward to seeing where he goes next – an opera perhaps?
— David McDade, 8.27.2021
Ofer Pelz is not just any plain, old musician, writes Simon Yaffe. For the Israeli is known as a composer, pianist and improviser who combines diverse instruments and electroacoustic media.
And he has used his ingenuity on second album, Trinité, which is released today via New Focus Recordings.
The record, which features Tel Aviv's Meitar Ensemble, comprises five works composed over eight years, recorded in three countries.
And, according to Montreal-based Ofer, his music explores the concept he defines as "unstable repetition".
He explained: "They are repetitive fragments which vary from repetition to repetition, all the while trying to keep a perceivable tension. When I write, I begin from a world of sounds that I imagine. I try to observe the same sounds from several kinds of perspectives: slowly, quickly, from nearby, from a distance, from the side, partially, and similar approaches. I try to incorporate a part of these perspectives.
Raised in Haifa and of Polish descent, Ofer did not come from a musical family. It was down to his neighbour — and best friend — that he became enthusiastic about music.
"He was two years older than me, but had started playing the piano," Ofer said. "I wanted to be like him, so he taught me how to play."
Ofer went on to study piano at Haifa's Rubin Conservatory of Music and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, before studying composition, music theory and music technology in Paris and Montreal.
He holds a doctorate in composition from the University of Montreal.
As well as an Israeli passport, Ofer also possesses French and Canadian citizenship. And that could well explain the fourth track in particular on Trinité. A 12-minute piece commissioned by Expo Milano, it uses lyrics from the French national anthem La Marseillaise.
It was completely revised for the Meitar Ensemble, which premiered the piece at IRCAM Manifeste 2016 and at Salle Bourgie, Montreal, a year later.
"My relationship with the Meitar Ensemble started in 2007," father-of-one Ofer said. "I remember my first piece with them was commissioned at the Kfar Blum Music Festival. I guess the album is a celebration of us working together choosing the right compositions and recordings, and spreading the word of what we have done together in the last decade, all packed up in one product."
A recipient of two prestigious Authors and Publishers of Musical Works' awards and the Ernest Von Siemens Music Prize, the 43-year-old is also the co-founder of Whim Ensemble and Tesse Ensemble.
Despite living in Montreal for a number of years, Ofer — who has collaborated with several dance choreographers — is a regular visitor to his native Israel.
And he would never rule out returning there.
He said: "It is something I always have in my mind — I mean, my family and friends are there, and there are a lot of things that I really love about Israel.
"Of course, there are a lot of problems there, too. I consider myself an Israeli quite easily, although I do feel that many people confuse Jewish and Israeli cultures. They think that they are the same thing. For me, Judaism is more related to faith and religion, even though there is a strong culture that comes with it."
— Simon Yaffe, 6.11.2021
A little avant garde, a little experimental, this cat that likes to mess with your perceptions of what a piano is or isn’t celebrates 8 years of collaborating with Meitar Ensemble in which they construct and deconstruct the sounds and where they go. The not so high minded could turn this album into a drinking game as they take turns calling out just what echoes of what they hear as this goes upon it’s merry way. Eggheads can just sit back and enjoy the experimentation. Wild stuff that colors outside the lines.
— Chris Spector, 6.19.2021
For some contemporary composers, atonality and multitonality and sonic assemblages that go beyond pitch are not enough to put across what they want to communicate. A (+++) New Focus Recordings release featuring five works by Ofer Pelz (born 1978) shows Pelz to be one such creator of music: electronics and much-altered pianos are integral to the sound of the works here. Pelz writes strictly for the cognoscenti, a kind of musical “in crowd” that is devoted to sounds beyond instruments’ comfortable ranges, techniques that strain performers and instruments alike, augmentations and alterations that alter the inherent sound production of instruments, and of course lots of electronics (controlled by Pelz himself in Backward inductions and Convergence). The first-named of those pieces uses an augmented piano, a kind of prepared piano on steroids, with amplification and the implantation of contact microphones that cause other percussion instruments to produce sounds in addition to the piano’s own highly percussive ones. Convergence mixes electronics with alto flute, managing to use the wind instrument in near-percussive ways. Both works are in essence extended sound repetitions with some aural variations produced or induced by their electronic elements. The other three pieces here are for larger groups. Chinese Whispers uses flute, clarinet, violin and cello, as well as prepared piano, in an intellectually intriguing but musically vapid progression that starts with a kind of “overview” and then dissects it into components parts. The same five instruments are used in marchons, marchons. There are no capital letters in the title, whose words come from La Marseillaise; Pelz’s idea here is that France and Israel (to whose national anthem the work also refers) have not lived up to the ideals embodied in their anthems. Pelz communicates this, or tries to, by presenting a kind of sound haze at some length and then introducing a shorter section with more-pointed rhythms and sonic elements. As in other argumentative contemporary works (including Lash’s Leander and Hero and many more), the point is not made by the music itself: the audience needs to know in advance what Pelz is getting at and then hopefully find ways in which the music is suitably illustrative. The recording concludes with the two-movement Blanc sur Blanc, written for flute, clarinet, prepared piano, and amplified string quartet. The clever use of strings at the opening of the first movement (which is called “First movement”) produces a rather bouncy feeling that differs from anything else on the disc, although the basic notion of repetition with augmentation and fragmentation is the same here as in the other works on the CD. The epilogue-like second movement (which is called “Epilogue”) is both quieter and more intense, using sections of sustained sound and a kind of spatial “hovering” to provide a contrast with the earlier material. There is no way that Pelz’s music will reach out effectively to a wide group of listeners, but that does not appear to be its reason for being: there is a certain ready-made audience for material of this sort, and Pelz seems more than content to create for that “in” crowd.
“Trinité”, a new disc of works by Ofer Pelz, celebrates eight years of collaboration between the composer and the Meitar Ensemble (Israel), the latter having commissioned two of the works recorded some works on the disc, having performed all of them widely. Known for combining diverse instruments and electro-acoustic elements, composer/pianist/improviser Ofer Pelz launches his second solo album. The pieces are conducted by André Valade (conductor-in-residence of the Meitar Ensemble), Guy Feder and Renaud Déjardin, with Quatuor Ardeo joining the Meitar Ensemble in the disc’s final work. As to the title of the CD, it is taken from a work of the same name by Montreal-based French artist Mateo as seen on the cover.
“Backward inductions”, originally composed for French-American pianist Julia Den-Boer, was revised for Amit Dolberg (Meitar Ensemble) in 2019; Dolberg performs it here. Written for augmented piano with other percussive objects and instruments, besides the piano, triggered by the amplification system, the work is characteristic of Pelz’ concept of “unstable repetition”. It comprises several sections, each a series of mostly filigree-light, staccato textures, busy and energetic, an entertaining and whimsical game of hide-and-seek punctuated by small fragments of “afterthoughts”, each featherweight section concluding with a gesture of grandiloquent rhetoric. Many of us will remember the concentration required as children when playing Chinese whispers at birthday parties and how the message whispered from one child to another ends up different to how it started out. In ”Chinese Whispers”, for flute, clarinet, violin, ‘cello, prepared piano and amplification, Pelz invites the listener to follow the subtle changes each section undergoes. Would it not suffice just to sit back and bask in the myriad of diaphanous timbres teasing and tantalizing the aural senses? No. You are here to participate - to examine, identify and codify the instrumental and other sounds - a rewarding pursuit asking to be undertaken several times, its call to discover having no boundaries.
In “Convergence”, alto flute (Roy Amotz, Meitar Ensemble) and electronics take the listener on a glorious, evocative, otherworldly journey through Ofer Pelz’ experiment in segmented sound. In his liner notes, the composer mentions the genesis of the piece as a “metaphor of the natural bouncing of a rubber material”. Written in collaboration with Paolo Vignaroli, who contributed to the electro-acoustic part, flute and the more urgent breath-related mix-processed sounds exist together or as separate entities in delicate sonority; they present a small marching song, then to culminate in one extended sonority.
“marchons, marchons”, scored for flute, clarinet, violin, ‘cello and prepared piano (Meitar Ensemble, conductor: Pierre Andre Calade) was recorded live at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2017. It was commissioned by Expo Milano 2015, this controversial world fair’s theme being “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life”. Pelz adds his own social and political criticism via the message conveyed by bloody, bellicose elements in the texts of the “Marseillaise” and that of an Israeli national song, A composition disturbing both in content and performance, one that will leave no listener on the outside, it begins with a series of separate, thought-provoking phrases rich in timbres and motifs, with the strings then sallying in with a strongly-coloured, intense and vehement section, compellingly indignant and enraged, the work ending in the eerie, hushed sounds of aftershock. In ”Blanc sur blanc”, for flute, clarinet, prepared piano and amplified string quartet, Pelz explores “the flexibility of time, stretching and compressing it with the use of repetitions and loops”, this piece also having been inspired by two illustrative images as described by the composer in the liner notes. It falls into two movements. A most attractive piece, the First Movement, ebullient in instrumental colour and hopping along with some jazzy rhythmical associations, then to move on to a calmer “aside” of breathy and percussive effects before returning to a high-energy section, the piano’s descending bass 4-note half-tone motif book-ending the movement. As to the Epilogue, it is wrought of long, vibrant sonorities made of lines of close intervals, continuously drawing the listener into its processes and “events”.
In the composer’s words: “When I write, I begin from a world of sounds that I imagine, I try to observe the same sounds from several kinds of perspective: slowly, quickly, from nearby, from a distance, from the side...and I will try to incorporate a part of these perspectives.” Produced for New Focus Recordings, what stands out in all the works heard on “Trinité” are the aesthetic beauty of Ofer Pelz’ compositional style, the fine detail and commitment that go into producing music of this quality. Born in Israel in 1978, Pelz studied composition, music theory and music technology in Jerusalem, Paris, and Montreal. Today, Ofer Pelz makes his home in Montreal, Canada.
— Pamela Hickman, 8.05.2021
Not to be confused with composer Walter Pelz, Ofer Pelz (b. 1978) gained a doctorate from the University of Montreal; he has studied also at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and, among others, at IRCAM in Paris. Hearing that his music has been performed at the Venice Biennale might help place his aesthetic, which is Modernist and explorative, particularly in his way of the deconstruction of the familiar: the finessing of a texture to an optimal sequence in Backward Inductions; the transformation/bastardization of an original in Chinese Whispers, the move from segmented to continuous sound in Convergence, the recontextualizing of national songs in marchons, marchons; and finally the move from point to line in Blanc sur Blanc.
The piece Backward inductions for “augmented piano” (2014–17) is performed by the pianist of the Meitar Ensemble, Amit Dolberg. The idea of reasoning backwards from the end of a solution implied by the title finds its corollary in the musical processes in reducing the original music to an optimal sequence. The opening moments could easily be modern jazz but as the piece continues, we enter more into Cageian territory. (The piece is, after all, for “augmented piano”: Percussive objects and instruments are triggered by an amplification system; contact microphones on the piano strings capture audio signals that get directed to transducers on those percussive objects.) Originally composed in 2014 for a concert in Montreal, Backward Induction was revised in 2017 for the present performer and recorded in 2019 at Tel Aviv University. Both engineer Rafi Eshel and the technician (the composer himself) create the perfect environment.
Written for a mixed ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, prepared piano, and amplification in 2013, Chinese Whispers explores the idea of transformation of a sound object. I had no idea this was known as “telephone game” in the USA, but it is a delightful children’s game, whatever one calls it. Here, the envelope is expanded to include stuttering and respiration in an elusive, quiet (= “whispered”) piece where rhythm dances with unpredictable steps. There is a process of examination here of the initial gestures of the piece, in which the composer zooms in on different facets that might not be immediately noticeable and examines them (the sound equivalent of holding them up to the light, perhaps).
Scored for alto flute (Roy Amotz of the Meitar Ensemble) and electronics, Convergence (2011) moves from active to stationary. The use of electronics is superb; it is truly an extension of Pelz’s vocabulary, the acoustic and electronic operating in conversation with each other and in doing so presenting us with a most modern take on beauty itself. The rarefied soundscape of marchons, marchons (2015/2018) takes the rather more disturbing lines from the Marseillaise and an Israeli national song, both of which refer to blood soaking into soil, as an inspiration. The restrained nature of the writing (for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and prepared piano) seems to invoke a frozen, even numb effect. It is all the more effective, therefore, when strings start to bite and the piano finds a new velocity.
In the final piece, Blanc sur Blanc (2011), the addition of an amplified string quartet adds to the sound palette. Inspired by two illustrations, the piece is in two movements, the first and major panel inspired by an image of many points and fragments, and the second, “Epilogue,” one of long lines. While the title reminds me of Rothko, certainly, the activity of the first movement seems to move away from that line of association, only to bring it right back in the strangely beautiful second movement, where things move at glacial pace, where post-Bartókian buzzings bring about a “Night Music” not of our planet. The music seems to be sucked into a void or even another dimension; it leaves a strange feeling of unease in its wake.
Brilliantly inventive music is achieved through a seeking, inquisitive mind; the music of Ofer Pelz is to be celebrated.
— Colin Clarke, 10.26.2021