2007, percaso production CD 26 // 14 Tracks // 44:46
Musician Tomas Bächli piano // Production notes All copositions are by Brian Agro // Recorded at Boxhagener Saal Berin, 2006 December 13 & 14 by Klaus Brun // Edited and mixed at Percaso Studio Baden by Christoph Gallio & Martin Lorenz // Mastered at Oakland Recording in Winterthur by Walter Schmid // Liner notes by Raphael Urweider // Graphic design by Anne Hoffmann // Cover art by Rolf Winnewisser


  2. RONDO p

Liner notes


prozession der ornamente  ein protokoll

ornamente treten auf, von beiden seiten, beidhändig, in den farben kühlerer tonarten,
ornamente, gerade wie lineale, linien, kinderleichte striche, weich gezeichnete, in ernsthaftem kinderspiel, ornamente wie ein konzentriert geöffneter mund, ein starrer blick, eine klar geführte hand,
ornamente heben ab, machen die runde, fallen auf sich zurück, geben sich den anschein von flugkörpern, eher teilchen als körper, schwebeteilchen, ohne marschrichtung, sie flirren, schwimmen nebeneinander her, spiegeln sich in sich, spielen sich in die hände,
ornamente begegnen sich auf verschiedenen ebenen, gleichzeitig, kommen auf einander zu, bewegen sich, wachsen ineinander in ihrem ganz eigenen rhythmus,
ornamente mit herzschlag und kreislauf,
ornamente mit pflanzendasein,
ornamente die knospen, blüten treiben, breiter werden, fruchten, sich wieder verjüngen,
ornamente werden rund und kugeln, gleiten wie über bahnen, im dreivierteltakt, der schwerkraft nach, dann wieder ihr entgegen, in verschiedenen tempi, bis fast zum stillstand, 
ornamente aus glas, aus durchsicht, mit schlagschatten und schlaglicht,
ornamente, die verschwimmen, schimmern wie kupfer, stahl, edelmetall, die glimmen wie opal, mondstein, mildes milchglas,
ornamente, die durch sich hindurch scheinen, auf sich bezug nehmen, sich winden, verdichten, fast zu verflüchtigen scheinen, dann wieder klarste konturen annehmen, sich einfügen, selbstständig machen,
ornamente, die sich wie von selbst organisieren, sich aufreihen und als erstaunliche prozession auftreten, von beiden seiten, von überall her, einzigartig.

raphael urweider, bern, august 2007



Though he has a number of records under his own name, composer Brian Agro is not one I'm immediately familiar with. Regardless, "Procession of the Ornaments" is a fine album that is worth investigating if only for the newness factor. Tomas Bächli does a great job at interpreting these pieces. Mostly quite, very brief in length, the pianist is able to give the music warmth, finesse and a sense of uniqueness. There is a great amount of sparseness woven between the melodies. Crescendos come and then the peaks crumble into deep crevices, but in the end, there is an utmost lyrical side to the pieces. At times, much of the music comes across like a dance of a madman, while in other sections, one gets a sense of wild abandon. Though there is no outright improvisational features to the music, one gets a drift that particular sections seem more free than those that are wrapped up in a tightly composed mentality. Each, single note played has a direct, very particular purpose of being brought to life. No second is wasted. Lyrical, while exemplifying a fine sense for story-telling quality, "Procession of the Ornaments" is one of the stand-out solo piano pieces I've heard this year. 


A third CD by Percaso of Agro's piano music. From 1989 dates "In A Hole in the Ice" with Katharina Weber interpreting compositions of Agro composed between 1980 and 1988. The second CD 'Poems and Preludes' (2001) presented his latest works for solo piano, this time performed by Tomas Bächli. Bächli is also the performer on the new CD by Agro, again a collection of solo piano pieces. Recorded in 2006 in Berlin, the city where canadian-born Agro most of the time lives. Agro keeps his work miles away from any modern musical trend, but he seeks his place in orientation with the western classical music tradition. Especially french music from the time of Satie, Ravel, an others come to my mind. Most compositions pass by in a calm mood. They sound simple and are very accessible. They are however cleverly and carefully constructed, where every note is to the point. 


Der kanadische Komponist BRIAN AGRO (*1953, Hamilton) ist eine Freund des Percaso-Machers Christoph Gallio, der nun zum dritten Mal seine Musik für Piano solo präsentiert. Wie schon Poems and Preludes (2000) wurde auch Procession of the Ornaments (percaso 26) von Tomas Bächli eingespielt. Neben Agros Percasodebut A Hole in the Ice (1988) gibt es noch So Sincere, ebenfalls für Solo-Piano, so dass man den Eindruck bekommt, dass der Kanadier ausschließlich für Piano solo komponiert. Er neigt in einem Stil, der so eigenzeitlich, wie zeitlos ‚modern‘ klingt, zu einem klaren, unprätentiösen, so energisch-entschlossenen wie nachdenklichen Duktus. Mit Jazz hat allenfalls ‚Papaya Jazz‘ im Third-Stream-Sinn etwas zu tun, ‚Rondo‘, ‚Étude III‘ oder ‚Walz for Canlon and South‘ verraten im Titel ihren Grundzug. Als verwandt kommen mit Peter Garland, Dave Smith oder die Pieces for Accordion von Howard Skempton in den Sinn. ‚Ornamental‘ ist Agros denkbar nicht redundante und unmanieristische Klangwelt nur, wenn man dabei etwas Nicht-Verbrecherisches im Ohr hat. Die Stücke, in denen sich Heiterkeit und ein Hauch von Melancholie die Waage halten, haben meist nur Satie- oder Songlänge und scheinen, wie auch die elegante Musik von Gallio selbst, aus einer ‚besseren‘ Parallelwelt herüber zu schallen. 


It takes a lot of listening to explore the depths of this third solo piano album by Canadian expat in Berlin, Brian Agro. The pieces are imaginative miniatures, mostly 1-3 minutes with a couple around 5 minutes, played in an attentive, crystalline fashion by Tomas Bachli. Each has its own mood built up out of melodic, simple yet complex elements. If there is an overall energy, I’d have to use words like reflective and enigmatic but there are often cheerful highlights touched by mischief. There are ocassional moments, as in ‘Prétudes’ Part I and II, when a feeling of heaviness bordering on monotony arises. The work is published on the Percaso label and is classed as a kind of avant/jazz, but the music brings to my mind the elegant keyboard ruminations of Ravel and the illusionary play of Debussy. Agro has a good ear, good taste, and a sensitivity to fine gradations of feeling, all reflected in his idiosyncratic chord structures. His miniatures repay repeated careful listening but also are also enjoyable to have around while you work or relax. 


Pianist Tomas Bächli studied with Werner Bärtschi and has been the receiver of numerous prizes throughout a career largely built upon interpretations of the works of modern composers (although he regularly performs Bach, Albeniz and other past heroes, too). He's also half of a piano duo with Gertrud Schneider, in which they tackle quarter-tone and just intonation music. In this CD, Bächli plays a set of 14 pieces by Canadian Brian Agro, this recording constituting my first encounter with his output, in spite of the fact that he's already released material on this very label. Although he was born in 1953, Agro is one of those authors whose writing appears to be firmly positioned in a back-looking time frame: elegant lines and semi-consonant chords are sparsely deployed, fruits of a nostalgic temperament ready to be harvested by expert hands. In certain passages the instrument (which seems to have been recorded in a large room from a distance) resounds charmingly, an aura of smiley sadness pervading the air in a tranquil afternoon. Music that leaves a lot of space for thoughts to fly around and pose on the dusty shelves of distant reminiscences, played without magniloquence yet far from being secretive. A responsive interpretation of a rather mysterious artist's compositional idea, his obscurity contributing to an even deeper intrigue in enjoying this disc.