CD review: Jürg Frey

First published in the Guardian on 19 May, 2016

Jürg Frey: Guitarist, Alone
Cristian Alvear (Another Timbre)

Not one for the impatient listener, this softly entrancing double-disc set contains all the solo guitar music by the Swiss composer Jürg Frey — and that means an awful lot of silence and not a huge number of notes. The first piece, Abendlied, contains exactly ten notes in two minutes, and that’s comparatively hectic. Frey is master of exquisite slow-fi; as a Wandelweiser artist, he considers quietness to be as expressive as noise and the way a note decays to be as crucial as the way it is struck. Apparently in preparing for this recording guitarist Cristian Alvear worked to finesse the art of making no noise whatsoever as he moved his hands over the instrument to play — these things matter in music that’s stripped back to absolute essentials. His attention to detail pays off, and he really sinks into the hypnotic pacing. There’s a sense of thoughts being worked out in real time, of musical statements being made, pondered and responded to without an iota of hurry.