Mikel Urquiza blurs the lines

Records 08.03.2023

Enthusiastic, joyful, zany, fresh, colourful and neat, the music of the young Basque-Spanish composer Mikel Urquiza, born in 1988, is also of an unparalleled richness. Each listening of the disc Espiègle (fingerprint), dedicated to him by the Ensemble C Barré (Marseille) and the Neue Vocalsolisten (Stuttgart) under the direction of Sébastien Boin, reveals an umpteenth detail, whether it is a facetiousness hidden in a fleeting corner of time, a dazzling harmonic and sonic splendor that emerges from a small detour, or a hidden quotation that one had missed in the continuous abundance.

For quotation isUrquiza's art of composition, which seems to glue or recycle as he breathes everything that comes to hand, in a chiseled mosaic. Opening the disc, the whirlwind of Lavora stanca for twelve instrumentalists (2020) makes you dizzy. Everything passes through it, revolutionary song, national anthem, Wagnerian leitmotiv or birdsong. Everything is transformed into everything, the Whistle while working of the seven dwarfs of Disney becomes El pueblo unido jamás será vencido, the Internationale becomes a Marseillaise. This fanfare start, inspired by Cesare Pavese's Travailler fatigue , acts as a trailer and marvelously exploits the sound palette of the twelve musicians of C Barré, this ensemble with such a singular instrumentarium: bass clarinet and clarinet, tenor saxophone and baritone saxophone, trumpet, accordion, cymbalum, piano, percussion, mandolin, guitar, harp, cello and double bass, all equipped with triangles.

The four pieces in My voice is my password (2021) explore the theme of robotic messages from telephone exchanges and the Internet. These nightmarish symbols of administrative technical coldness, which have invaded our inhumanized ultraliberal world, are evoked in a perfectly organic way and with a piquant humor by the six a capella voices of the Neue Vocalsolisten, sprinkled with numerous quotations, from Bach to jazz. Striking!

Mandolin, guitar and harp constitute a large part of the sound identity of C Barré. Mikel Urquiza dedicates them Elurretan (2017, "On the snow", in Basque). The three parts of the work sublimate their timbres with a beautiful mastery, scraped and rubbed on "Mara-mara", in glissando on "Irrist" and in subtle percussions on the tremolos of "Dardar".

Voices and instruments unite on two works, More sweetly forgot ... (2017), for soprano, soprano saxophone, accordion and percussion, and Songs of Spam (2019) for six voices and seven instruments. The first is based on poems by Sappho translated by Anne Carson, very freely interpreted in works with a ritual character - it is not surprising to recognize a quotation from Stockhausen 's Stimmung in "Youth". Songs of Spam evokes in four pieces the advertising pollution continuously vomited by the spam, with such a humor that one would almost laugh at it, yellow. In the manner of a religious ceremony, the incongruous sentences spread, "Billions and billions" hammers us the second piece, in the manner of Donald Trump, heating the servers to white until our world burns.

The album ends beautifully with a tribute to the Chansonnier de Palacio, a famous manuscript collection from the Spanish Renaissance, of which Cancionero sin palacio (2021) offers a loving and colourful rereading, which once again sublimates the timbral richness of the twelve instrumentalists of the ensemble C Barré. This disc celebrates the splendors and follies of humanity. It can be played over and over again on the turntable, revealing new colors as long as we can see the world spinning.

Guillaume Kosmicki

Espiègle, by Mikel Urquiza with the Ensemble C Barré and the Neue Vocalisten, conducted by Sébastien Boin - Label L'empreinte digitale 

Photo © Rui Camilo
Photo © Sebastian Berger
Photo © Cécile Chassang


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