Album: Zahra Fugues
Author: Massimo Ricci
Publication: Touching Extremes (source)
Date: 09/29/2010

With indefensible delay – as usual, I hear someone muttering – we land in the second chapter of Frank Rothkamm’s Tetralogy series, which meanwhile has arrived at the fourth (stay tuned, I’ll try and catch up soon-ish). Zahra Fugues – first acoustic release by the German artist in 25 years – is a collection of short pieces played on a Steinway And Sons Model M piano that, according to typically legendary-sounding liners, was lent to the composer by a woman called, guess what, Zahra when he was living in New York alone and without an instrument in a serious case of pianistic cold turkey. These fugues are a blend of organization and emancipation from the necessity dictated by classical configurations, alternating respectful hints to those traditional forms and ironic quotes (“Smoke On The Water”, of all things). As always, Rothkamm doesn’t leave the doors completely open to an authentic understanding of the procedures: the music is in fact rendered by “four independent monophonic voices realized by an 8-armed pianist”, and the accompanying postcard reveals an old IBM ThinkPad laptop on the right of the primary generator (this actually means nothing, but you never know). The execution runs the gamut of moods – from nostalgically peaceful, almost retro one would say, to enthusiastically triumphant, overexcited superimpositions of rolling arpeggios making us think to a half-dozen of cloned Keith Tippett-like gnomes fighting for a spot in the sun. Whatever the man decides to do, we’re there with unlocked ears and – usually – a smile of recognition after the record’s over. This was no exception.

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