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International acclaim for Thomas Simaku’s new album

Posted on 10 February 2021

Thomas Simaku’s new album of chamber music, con-ri-sonanza, released by the Swedish label BIS Records in November 2020, has captured the attention of the music press and radio stations alike.

Photo of Thomas Simaku playing the piano, and an image from the cover of his 2020 album con-ri-sonanza

Performed by Quatuor Diotima and Joseph Houston, two works from this album were featured on French national radio, France Musique, which described Simaku's music as 'astonishing', in a programme of contemporary music broadcast on 7 February 2021.

The CD was also featured in programmes by the Portuguese national radio RTP and the American radio Ecclectus in Seattle in November and December 2020 respectively.

After two excellent reviews published recently in Germany and the UK (Das Klassik & Jazz and Gramophone), the French magazine Diapason has published a five-star review in its January issue. Critic Pierre Rigaudière writes:

"The expressionism cultivated by Thomas Simaku in his string quartets stems more from an inclination for specific harmonic materials and textures rather than mere expressive hypersensitivity. The energy and tension of No 4 (2010-2011) recalls early Ligeti, and even more so Elliot Carter. Simaku perpetuates his signature slow introduction - fine sounds, static harmonies and a luminescent aura, which suit Diotima just as well as concentrated energy and rhythmic precision. Pizzicatos, glissandos, cascades of sounds and high-pitched whistles appear as reoccurring figures, while the surrounding chromaticism is resolved in the spectral release of a low 'C'.

Our preference is admittedly for the most recent Quatuor no 5 (2015), which leaves even more space for interpretation. Quasi-immaterial (first Spaziale), very incisive bites (beginning of 2nd movement), a lyricism electrified by a crepuscular tension and chromatic swarms follow on from one another without losing momentum.

In his piano writing, the Albanian-British composer favours arabesques and long resonances, as seen in the solo pieces that Joseph Houston renders with great fluidity, without sacrificing the attack’s rebound or impact. In the quintet Con-ri-sonanza (2018), piano and strings seem to stare each other down, alternating, and mutually accompanying each other. At the moment of fusion, a spectral chord is once more indexed on the lowest string of the cello, bringing with it a much-awaited resolution."