Ohne Titel (Zwei Violinen)

By Jürg Frey


I.5: Together


Ohne Titel (Zwei Violinen) is emblematic for much of Jürg Frey’s work, because here, as elsewhere, the idea of two runs very deep.

A piece begins with something – some group of similar sounds, or some manner of performance; and then, without warning, reason, or justification, simply changes to something else.

These are moments in which all lies open, where the imminent need to decide threatens to become almost a kind of panic.

In Ohne Titel (Zwei Violinen) “two” means not just two moments in time (i.e., before and after), but two persons. Throughout most of the piece the players play the same part, exactly the same notes. And here there is an interesting principle: the more similar the musicians actually sound, the more one senses their separation. This implies that, in this work, two is most visible at the border of one, where an infinite proximity reveals a fundamental difference.

Every thing in this piece seems to move from one extreme to the other: by leaps or sudden contrasts. In each case the physical limit of the instrument is approached in way that suggests that the music would continue, beyond the realm of the physical and audible.

With the emphasis on boundaries, we are strongly directed towards a metaphorical kind of space, enclosed not with walls but with windows, which allow us a view to the horizon.

And still, this music is a song. But this song either speaks with gestures of great intensity or hardly at all. There is just the slightest echo of melody: Verdi’s “scala enigmatica,” itself an echo of melody. In this piece we hear song as pure longing, reaching for something that will forever remain just out of our grasp.

–Michael Pisaro (slightly edited)