The box set can be a tricky business. Generally produced by obsessives for the similarly afflicted, classical music collections are particularly notorious for digging too deep in an effort to document the under-appreciated.
Not so with this lovely new collection from Sweden’s 1631 Recordings. The label has earned an international reputation for issuing quality releases. This box of 30 selections features 111 minutes of work from six names you won’t soon forget.
Dustin O’Halloran is first. His handsome touch on the piano is paired with Iceland’s remarkable cellist Gyda Valtýsdóttir. “An Empty Space” is gently paced and passionate. For such a sparsely composed piece, its emotion runs thick. O’Halloran’s “The Length of Shadows” is similarly poignant.
Hauschka (a.k.a. Volker Bertelmann) is next with five pieces. His performances are light and unpretentious. If new classical music had a folk subgenre, you’d find him at the lead of the movement. “Shy” is disarmingly unassuming. “6 AM” is more dramatic, and every bit as accessible.
Oskar Schuster’s six contributions are delicately cinematic. “Sedmikrásky” and “Kyiv” are two stand-outs. But his style is consistently distinctive, even amongst this lengthy collection’s roster of new classical artists.
Dmitry Evgrafov is perhaps the least romantic of the contributors, as the titles “Output One,” “Output Two” and “Output Three” make clear. He adds a welcome modernist flair to the box set. Evgrafov’s fourth piece, “Afterthought” is nothing of the kind.
Sophie Hutchings’ seven lo-fi solo piano recordings add further dimension to the box. Her compositions balance the complexity of great new classical music with a natural melodic flair.
Finally, Library Tapes offers the five-part “Komorebi.” Sweden’s David Wenngren has recorded multiple albums under that stage name since 2005. Featuring a bed of electronics under his piano, this is a major work by a respected – if not widely known – artist. Watch for his new album Patterns (Repeat) on 1631 Recordings June 1.