CD Review: Urbanicity

Julien Roh
Accompanied by: Anne Volluz Alter (piano), Fabrice Vernay (percussion)
Altophilia Recordings: B00J6OA1BO
Total Plating Time: 75.15 mins

This CD is available to purchase at: http://www.julienroh.com/

It’s not often a solo CD comes along that succeeds in both pushing technical boundaries and expanding creative horizons, but Julien Roh’s enterprising release ‘Urbanicity’, is just that and more.


The Swiss tenor horn player has enjoyed considerable success in his native country as a soloist, conductor and composer: A previous CD showcased the music of both Roh and Ludovic Neurohr.

And while the latter’s ‘Acedia’ features, there is none of Roh’s own creative work on display on this occasion. Instead, it’s a recording borne of a desire to showcase newly minted creative repertoire that attempts to cast the instrument in a new, progressive light.

You have to say Roh succeeds admirably.


Benjamin Tubb’s quirky ‘Urbanicity’ title track, melds the sound of the horn with percussion and electronics in a compelling exploration of timbre, inspired by an aural city landscape. In contrast, the refined, Gallic tones of the ‘Sonatina for Tenor Horn’ by Etienne Crausaz hint at Ravel and Poulenc, especially in the elegant mysticism of its central movement.

The demanding lyrical lines of Lucy Pankhurst’s ‘To Dance Alone’ make effective use of the marimba in an evocative, gently lilting miniature, whilst Maurice Donnet-Monay’s ‘LunatiKKK’, deliberately keeps you at arm’s length - not quiet able to draw you as close as you may suspect, to its intriguing heart.  


There is also a disturbingly elusive musicality to Van der Roost’s ‘Obsessions’, which emerge from an opening nightscape of unsettling dissonance before settling into a series of contrasting, at times jazzy episodes.

Elsewhere, the trio of fleeting movements of the wittily titled ‘The Matter Horn’ by Jerome Piquerez exploit both demanding technique and enigmatic accompaniment, whilst ‘Prelude et Tarentelle’ by Philippe Morard conjures with a more overtly romantic language in its spirited treatment of its dance-like theme.

Major McGhee

Paul McGhee’s haunting ‘Dreams That Steal all my Time’ is a major addition to the horn repertoire - as notable for the impressive quality of its piano writing as it is for the demanding solo line; making use of stopped techniques in a fascinating, kaleidoscopic soundscape that take the instrument into unfamiliar territory.  


The subtle electronic time delay effects of the opening study of Jean-Francois Michel’s ‘Trois Etudes’, also takes the instrument into differing stylistic landscape, with the minimalist shifting rhythmic patterns of Neurohr’s ‘Acedia’ rounding off a totally absorbing release.

If there is an issue, it is the complete absence of any liner notes on the music itself - a real pity as it would add an even greater dimension to what is a release of considerable pioneering artistic merit, from a deeply impressive performer.

Christopher Thomas

Track Listing:

1. Urbanicity (Tubb)
2-4. Sonatina for Tenor Horn (Crausaz)
5. To Dance Alone (Pankhurst)
6. LunatiKKK (Donnet-Monay)
7. Obsessions... (Van der Roost)
8-10. The Matter Horn (Piquerez)
11. Prélude et Tarentelle (Morard)
12. Dreams that steal all my Time (McGhee)
13-15. 3 Etudes (Michel)
16. Acedia (Neurohr)

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