Thomas Fortmann, of Swiss origins, was before turning to serious composition a successful songwriter and rock artist through 1977. That was in Europe–in the States I do not believe he was very well-known. It is no matter though, because his chamber music is of interest regardless of whether we knew his music before or not.
There is a CD out with three interesting works, called In Dust We Trust (Metier 28534). It brings to us a Piano Trio, (“Prolitheus Suite”) in five movements, a Sonata for Violin and Piano dubbed “A Southern Diary” and 4 Pieces for 2 Violins (“Con Pepe e Zucchero”).
The music is often quite expressive, sometimes rather boisterously forte, and combines a modern harmonic extendedness (sometimes built upon twelve-tone sequences and transformations) with vernacular forms, like ragtime, the blues tinge, Vaudeville songs, rock, and a melodic flair in general. Fortmann is “world local” at times in ways that remind slightly of Bartok in that mode, folksy yet modern-serious in his melding of various local musics–not Swiss especially, but the local as more universal to the West at large.
One must spend some time acclimating to his sometimes dense dramatic and well-turned musical lathe before you start appreciating his art and craft at their true value. There are thematic elements of an extra-musical nature that further enhance the associations the music can call up in one’s imagination, but in the end what counts is a very palpable sense of structure conjoined with an artist’s attention to emotive power. The performances are quite fine. Thomas Fortmann has a vivid, inventive soul. The music will get to you in time if you allow it. Bravo and encore!