martes, 27 de junio de 2017

Roberta Invernizzi / Silvia Frigato / Thomas Bauer / La Risonanza / Fabio Bonizzoni G.F. HAENDEL Duetti e Terzetti italiani

Fabio Bonizzoni returns with a further Glossa release dedicated to the chamber vocal output of Georg Friedrich Handel: here, a second volume of duets (and trios), which features the vocal talents of Roberta Invernizzi, Silvia Frigato, Thomas Bauer and Krystian Adam.
Whilst Handel wrote these small-scale vocal works across his career, this new selection focuses on that astonishingly fertile brief stay that the young Saxon made in Italy from 1707-09 (when he also produced many of the cantatas which Bonizzoni has recorded to great critical success for Glossa). These sensual duets and trios are imbued with Handel’s discovery of Italian – especially the Arcadian – culture, which included him hearing and understanding the music of Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti. How quickly and successfully Handel developed the chamber duet form is discussed in another of Stefano Russomanno’s detailed explorations of Handel’s music in the booklet essay.

Much of the music for these duets and trios on this recording is scored for soprano and bass singers and Roberta Invernizzi, in particular, is afforded another opportunity to demonstrate her magical reaction to Handel’s responsiveness to the Italian language. Not to be outdone in this respect are also the other vocal solists and of course the experienced continuo team from La Risonanza: Caterina Dell’Angello (cello), Evangelina Mascardi (theorbo) and Fabio Bonizzoni himself (harpsichord). (GLOSSA)

Kim Kashkashian / The Hilliard Ensemble / Dennis Russell Davies / Stuttgarter Kammerorchester GIYA KANCHELI Abii Ne Viderem

My first exposure to the music of Giya Kancheli, with which the composer once said, “I feel more as if I were filling a space that has been deserted,” was through Exil, which remains in my opinion the finest ECM New Series release to date. Much in contrast to the tearful beauty of that most significant chamber album, the orchestral arrangements on Abii ne viderem—drawn as they are from the same thematic sources—lend extroverted articulation to essentially “monastic” material. This music may speak the same language, but in a far more distant dialect. The Life without Christmas cycle, from which two pieces bookend the present recording, is central to the Kancheli oeuvre. Not only is it his wellspring, but it also comprises, it would seem, the overarching worldview under which he musically operates. It is the gloom of a life of displacement, the full embodiment of what Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich calls “measured gravity,” which may perhaps be likened to the heavy emptiness of Tarkovsky’s Stalker. As in said film, every gesture makes a footprint, a remnant of human presence left to sink into the submerged wasteland of a silent future.
Morning Prayers (1990) is immediately distinguished by an angelic boy soprano, whose taped voice is never fully grounded but which hovers throughout. The piano adds another haunting element, seeming to pull at the barbed ends of nostalgia even as it pushes the orchestra down a flight of descendent chords. Occasional violent moments startle us into self-awareness and only serve to underscore the power of the prayers that surround them. The most profoundly effective moment occurs when the piano echoes in a dance-like theme, the orchestral accompaniment slightly off center—a distant memory ravaged by time and circumstance.
The title of the album’s central piece, Abii ne viderem (1992/94), translates to “I turned away so as not to see.” The more one listens to it, the question becomes not what is being turned away from but what is being observed upon turning. Its paced staccato bursts are linked by a profound silence, escalating with every reiteration. This silence eventually opens into a full orchestral statement, italicized again by the piano’s audible pulse. We find ourselves caught in the middle of a larger web of sentiments, until we can no longer see ourselves for who we are but only for who we have been. Personally, I find this piece to be a touch overbearing, if only because the import of its ideas is easily crushed by the heft of its dynamic spread.
The presence of the Hilliard Ensemble rescues Evening Prayers (1991) from the didacticism of its predecessor. It is a more fully unified narrative, linked by a lingering alto flute. A gorgeous “ascension” passage marks a rare contrapuntal moment for Kancheli, while David James’s voice creates magic, ever so subtly offset by a skittering violin. Occasional bursts, some punctuated by snare drum, break the mood and ensure that our attention is held. Inevitably, the piece ends like a ship sailing into a foggy ocean, leaving behind only a blank map to show for our travels.
Don’t let any comparisons to Arvo Pärt lure you astray. Kancheli’s music, while transcendent, cannot be divorced from its rootedness in upheaval. And while this album may be filled with beautiful moments, I cannot help but feel that something gets elided in these grander arrangements. I say this with the gentlest of criticisms, and perhaps only because my first foray into this world was on such a small scale. The sound of Exil stays with me, and sometimes I just cannot hear it in any other context, and for those wishing to hear this composer for the first time I would recommend starting there. That being said, the scale of these pieces makes them no less evocative for all their historical understatements and sensitivity. And perhaps that is Kancheli’s underlying observation: that, in our current climate of convalescent ideologies, all we have to hold on to are those rare flashes of fire in which our communion with something greater has transcended the rising waters of sociopolitical corruption. (ECM Reviews)

Kim Kashkashian / Robert Levin / Eduard Brunner GYÖRGY KURTÁG Hommage à R.Sch. - ROBERT SCHUMANN

Bartók serves as the link between Schumann and Kurtág: when Kurtág says 'My mother tongue is Bartók, and Bartók's mother tongue was Beethoven' he is referring to the historically linked musical traditions of Germany and Austria, which are his special concern. In addition to this general connection, the works of Kurtág and Schumann reveal astonishing and fascinating affinities in terms of both literary and musical references..... --From the CD booklet notes by Hartmut Lück
on Kashkashian: '... the best violist in the world.' --New York Daily News
'Her playing is notable for its songfulness, a weightless soaring that conveys a wealth of emotion.' --Philadelphia Inquirer

Kim Kashkashian / Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra / Peter Eötvös BÉLA BARTÓK - PETER EÖTVÖS - GYÖRGY KURTÁG

“Kim Kashkashian’s playing of that most vexing and vulnerable of instruments, the viola, always seems to convey both the pain and the joy, the beauty and the toil, that go into the making of music. As it’s been said, she is a virtuoso who doesn’t play like a virtuoso. You don’t get just the notes, the surface get the subtext, the deep feelings – the composers’, hers, yours.” – Bradley Bambarger, Schwann Opus.
Typically impassioned, committed performances distinguish Kim Kashkashian’s New Series recording of music for viola by three great Hungarian composers. Kashkashian’s intense focus, superb craftsmanship and explosive virtuosity are brought to bear on Béla Bartók’s final work, on one of György Kurtág’s early pieces, and on an important new work written especially for her by Peter Eötvös.
Interconnections between the composers and the interpreter are many. Something akin to a line of transmission runs from Bartók to Eötvös via Kurtág. Kurtág has famously said that his “mother tongue is Bartók”, and his Movement for Viola and Orchestra was directly influenced by Bartók’s Violin Concerto and Concerto for Orchestra. Peter Eötvös was born, like Bartók, in Transylvania, befriended Kurtág in Budapest, and his musical development was decisively influenced by the work of both composers. “György Kurtág’s music”, Eötvös has noted, “is deeply rooted in European tradition. The certainty and glowing intensity of his works remind me of Van Gogh and Dostoyevsky. The increasing success of his music comes on the one hand from the fact that his powerful, subjective ability to express himself cannot be pigeonholed in any of the familiar stylistic movements, and on the other hand, from the fact that his music has an unusually vital relationship to the living and the dead.” A similar claim might well be made for the musics of Eötvös himself and Bartók, in which innovation and respect for the weight of tradition are keenly balanced.
Kashkashian, who has worked closely with Kurtág, was instrumental in bringing his music to the New Series and made the premiere recording of his revised six-part cycle “Jelek” (ECM New Series 1508). She has also worked under the baton of Eötvös and has, furthermore, been playing the Bartók Viola Concerto for three decades now. In preparation for the current project she went back to some of Bartók’s own sources, “listening to a lot of the Hungarian folk music he collected to study the articulation of melody, rhythm, phrasing.” (ECM Records)

lunes, 26 de junio de 2017


Reto Bieri’s New Series debut is a brilliant recital for solo clarinet that looks at new developmental possibilities in the ‘language’ of the instrument in modern music. Bieri quotes with approval Heinz Holliger’s statement “My entire relation to music is such that I always try to go to the limits”. Here the Swiss clarinettist has brought together pieces from the border regions of compositional exploration, as well as the pathways that link them. Under examination here are, for instance, the border region “between silence and the birth of sound and noise, a magical region”, touched upon in the music of Salvatore Sciarrino, Heinz Holliger and Gergely Vajda. Then there is the juncture of speech, sprechgesang and melody (referenced in Holliger and Luciano Berio), as well as the border region linking gesture, dance, ritual and game – as in Holliger, Elliott Carter and Péter Eötvös.
In Holliger’s “Contrechant”, the piece that gives Bieri’s album its title, all the regions are illuminated, calling for “a new kind of virtuosity from the player”, a challenge to which Reto Bieri rises. With the exception of the late Luciano Berio, the clarinettist has worked closely with each of the featured composers to realize optimum performance of these pieces. What a fascinating group of composers it is, too: from Elliott Carter – at 102, America’s Grand Old Man of new music – to Gergely Vajda, former student of Eötvös, who wrote “Lightshadow-trembling” when he was only twenty.
Paul Griffiths, in his liner notes, emphasizes the ‘singing’ quality of the performances: “Song. Some of the titles nudge us in that direction – Lied, Contrechant, Rechant – but what makes the conclusion inescapable is the fluency, the nuanced variety of Reto Bieri’s playing. This is indeed song: song without words … song in which sound alone sings”.
Bieri views the choice of pieces for the present album as an extension of the ideal repertoire suggested by the 1995 ECM solo clarinet recording “dal niente” by Eduard Brunner, with music of Lachenmann, Stockhausen, Stravinsky, Boulez, Scelsi and Yun. (Both solo clarinet discs were recorded at Propstei St Gerold, with Manfred Eicher producing). “Contrechant” is destined to prove no less influential. (ECM Records)

LERA AUERBACH plays her Preludes and Dreams

Russian pianist and composer Lera Auerbach does not look like your average pianist/composer. She looks a little more like an actress or model, and Americans might note that she looks a bit like British actress Olivia d'Abo, who plays Nicole Wallace, Vincent D'Onofrio's notorious nemesis on the popular detective show Law and Order: Criminal Intent. However, acting is not Auerbach's sideline; it's poetry, and she has five collections of poems to credit, plus publication of more than 100 single items in various Russian poetry journals. Most of us in the West can't make heads or tails of the Russian language, therefore Auerbach's music must speak to us on her behalf. The 37 pieces found on Bis' Lera Auerbach plays her Preludes and Dreams are like pianistic poems; while a few top the three-minute mark, most of these pieces range between 3 minutes and 30 seconds. The movements are subdivided into three sets, 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 41, Ten Dreams, Op. 45, and Chorale, Fugue and Postlude, Op. 31, but at first the listener may experience them as if all were part of the same work, or at least the same "album" -- that taken in a popular sense, rather than in a typical classical album where the disc is made up of movements belonging to works obviously different from one another. Lera Auerbach plays her Preludes and Dreams has a sense of continuity that makes it feel as though all of it is of a piece.
Auerbach is an excellent pianist, and yet not one who composes to amaze us with her dexterity. Many of her pieces are spacious, understated, and strongly reliant on distantly struck notes and the sound of chords dying away for their effect. Not even one of her pieces is truly abstract or seemingly derived from some kind of procedure; Auerbach composes by impulse and her development schemes are instinctual. At times her influences are apparent -- one hears an occasional allusion to Mussorgsky and more often to the music of Prokofiev. The fifth "dream" Tempo di Marcia features a twisted-up fragment of what seems to be a quote from Kurt Weill's Kanonensong disintegrating into the coal dust of a ground-up remnant from the "Fate" motif of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in C minor. Such direct quotations are relatively rare in Auerbach's music; however, she does work from direct impressions and personal experience and that is what goes into her music. Auerbach isn't trying to do a backflip in order to please an audience, either; some of her harmonic gestures are stern, tough, and even angry sounding. Nevertheless, her music is the result of a distinct and well-studied personality, a fact that is already well known to many top-flight performers and groups who have commissioned Auerbach for works and to Sikorski, the music publisher to whom Auerbach is its youngest composer.
Lera Auerbach plays her Preludes and Dreams shakes up the expectations commonly accorded to classical music in a variety of ways. Many pro-European musical pundits may insist that the classical tradition cannot move forward without the use of the "dreaded systems" developed early in the twentieth century and done to death by mid-century. However, Auerbach is European, isn't using the dreaded systems, and seems to be moving forward as well as anyone. Other more technologically inclined music mavens insist that the entire future of music is bound up in digital technology, and yet the only digital technology Auerbach is using here is her fingers. Auerbach, utilizing a traditional instrument and clearly recognizable musical materials, is making music that sounds fresh, mysterious, contemporary, atmospheric, and personal. Perhaps if we stopped worrying so hard about what the next big thing was going to be, we might take notice of artists like Auerbach, who is offering something right now in terms of classical music that is hip, relevant, provocative, and thoroughly enjoyable. (Dave Lewis)


An ECM debut for György Kurtág jr, in a strikingly unusual context. The son of the great Hungarian composer is himself an influential figure in new music, particularly in the electronic and electro-acoustic domain. “Kurtágonals” is, amongst other things, a celebration of his work in this area, as fellow composer László Hortobágyi  adapts and develops Kurtág jr. themes – some of them more than 30 years old - , setting them in new sound-environments. Hortobágyi views “Kurtágonals” as both a diary of a long friendship and a succinct summary of the musical oeuvre of the contributors.
The three musician-composers, also known democratically as Hortogonals, have a vast range of experience between them which reaches beyond ‘new music’ into non-western forms, sound-collage, improvisation, folk music, pop, rock, and ambient music. The participants write, “The principal intention of the Hortogonals project is to re-contextualize these compositions, originally born in a classical avant-garde musical atmosphere, into a 21st century final form. Joint efforts have resulted in a so far non-existent genre of ‘contemporary audiopod’, a collage of music with unique tonality and unusual compositional form.” (ECM Records)

sábado, 24 de junio de 2017

TOSHIO HOSOKAWA Vertical Time Study I - Sen V - In die Tiefe der Zeit - Melodia - Vertical Time Study III

In his series Vertical Time Study, Hosokawa seeks to "integrate Noh’s vertical structure of time into my own music. It is about how temporal elements, like wedges, disrupt the vertical, horizontal timeline at irregular intervals. These disruptions produce elements of tension … creating visible fissures in the structure of time and visible cracks in space. My aim is to examine the complexity and the depth of these sounds hidden in the moment." In his piece Sen V, Hosokawa tries to combine the "earth’s groaning" - his personal impression of Tibetan Shomyo (Buddhist monk chants) – with the sound of the accordion. The same instrument plays an important role in his 1994 piece In die Tiefe der Zeit, in which it acts as the female counterpart to the solo cello. Both instruments are embraced by the string section representing the universe. The part for accordion in Melodia, which represents Hosokawa’s attempt to portray the "flow of sounds in our souls", is inspired by the sound of the ancient Chinese Sheng. The special relationship with Buddhist ideas is the hallmark of Hosokawa’s oeuvre: "It is possible to attain the state of Buddha in a single note." (Proverb)

Vadim Gluzman / Angela Yofee LERA AUERBACH 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano - T'filah - Postlude

Lera Auerbach, just 30, has already achieved success as a pianist, composer (more than 60 opus numbers to date), novelist and poet. Born in the Soviet Union, she trained mainly in the US and in Germany. This, the first commercial CD of her music, benefits from powerful, strongly committed performances, and excellent recording – Auerbach’s style involves vivid, sometimes aggressive exploitation of the piano’s bass register, and such passages come across with wonderful force and clarity. 
For the sequence of 24 keys, she adopts the same order as Chopin did for his Preludes (and Pierre Rode in his 24 violin Caprices). But the major and minor keys mean something rather different to Auerbach. Sometimes the key is only tenuously suggested (F sharp major); sometimes we’re half-way through the piece before it’s established (C major). On other occasions the tonal centre may be clear but the mode less so (B major). Or we come across naïve, straight-forward tonal material, subverted by unusual timbre or an ‘alien’ harmonic context (G major). 
Auerbach’s music is eclectic, in places referential (F sharp minor, with its echoes of Mussorgsky and the Mozart K488 Concerto), but put together with tremendous passion and imagination. And if some devices tend to recur over and over again (wide separation of the pianist’s hands, thumping repeated bass notes, pieces that begin with great energy which then runs out to create a sense of emptiness), the way she welds so many memorable moments into a convincing extended sequence shows a real composer at work. We’re likely to hear a lot more of her. (Duncan Druce / Gramophone)

Daniel Hope SPHERES Einaudi - Glass - Nyman - Pärt - Richter

For as long as mankind has gazed up into the night sky at the stars and planets following their ordained course, the imagination has been set free. In ancient days, people spoke of “music of the spheres”, ghostly sounds that were long thought to have been created by the planetary bodies brushing past each other. The music they made was ethereal and, quite literally, otherworldly.
“I’ve been fascinated for a long time by this idea of ‘spherical music’ and by the philosophers, mathematicians and musicians who expounded their theory of musica universalis over the centuries,” explains Daniel Hope. “It started with Pythagoras and extended to some of those extraordinary German thinkers such as Johannes Kepler who were convinced that music was created when planets move or collide, and that music had a mathematical foundation, a kind of astronomical harmony. I thought it was significant that these were brilliant scientists and mathematicians, not just soothsayers. My aim was to make an album touching on this sublime theme, while also discovering what composers nowadays might write when thinking in this context.”
“Spheres” can be interpreted in a number of ways, beginning with the exploration of pieces that ally themselves to the concept of extraterrestial music which can as easily come from the 17th century as from the 21st. But the circularity of a sphere, the shape’s roundness, can also be related to the use of repetition in much of modern music – from the minimalism of Philip Glass via the fusing of the minimal with a more overtly emotional language, as in Michael Nyman’s Trysting Fields (music from the soundtrack to Peter Greenaway’s film Drowning by Numbers), to the quirky and immediately communicative Eliza Aria by Elena Kats-Chernin. (James Jolly)

JOHN CAGE Two4 - TOSHIO HOSOKAWA In die Tiefe der Zeit

The Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa describes his music as calligraphy with notes in space and time, notes that come from the world of silence and also return to it. He understands his composition "In die Tiefe der Zeit" [Into the Depths of Time] as a mythic soundscape. To the traditional Japanese "paths" of discovering the self, Toshio Hosokawa adds another one: the "path of music".
John Cage, too, decided early on to take the "path of music", and he thoroughly explored non-Western systems of thought and ways of life.

viernes, 23 de junio de 2017


The German-Austrian-Australian Rosamunde Quartett München was formed in 1991 by four musicians of widely differing backgrounds, and given early encouragement by Sergiu Celibedache and Heinrich Schiff. A major success at the Berliner Festwochen a year later elevated them to 'the elite of the lofty guild of string quartets' to quote one German critic, and since then they have toured the major festivals. The undervalued work of Czech composer Burian has been one of the quartet's enthusiasms from the outset. Here they contrast his 4th String Quartet with Shostakovich's 8th - in the process alluding to the troubled biographies of both men - in a programme that begins with Webern's farewell to Romanticism in the Langsamer Satz.

'One of the finest discs to come from ECM of late by the little-known but distinguished Rosamunde Quartet. The Webern dates from his short-live Romantic period, in style close to late Strauss or Schoenberg of Verklärte Nacht. Shostakovich's elegiac String Quartet No. 8, dedicated to 'the victims of fascism and war', glints with irony and self-reference, while the Czech Burian manages to be at once sinister and dreamy.'  (Fiona Maddocks, The Observer)

VALENTIN SILVESTROV leggiero, pesante

Of all the words in music’s vocabulary, one of the commonest is "farewell" Many of the world’s greatest songs are addressed to the departing: the recently dead, lost lovers, missed opportunities. Music speaks of these things as memory speaks, makes us aware both of distance and of remaining closeness. Nothing is lost, music says: it is here. But also: it is here only because it cannot come back. … When it addresses leave-taking specifically, it has terms that include some of the oldest in the Western tradition. A four-note scalewise descent in the minor mode has been an image of lament since the Renaissance, and perhaps it accounts for the atmosphere of sadness that often gathers around minor-key harmony. A final cadence, particularly in slow music, can also sound like a valedicition, because this is the point at which music not only expresses passing but itself recedes.
This vanishing and this eternal presence have been the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov’s persistent topics through the last three decades, since he was in his 30’s and, like his Soviet contemporary Arvo Pärt, heard the past sounding through the gaps in modernism. …
At the opening of the First Quartet, for instance, there are the falling phrases and the omnipresent cadences that convey appeased grief, all at a very relaxed tempo and in a harmonic ambience as straightforward as that of a folk song. The Barber Adagio is only a step away. But then the picture begins to cloud. An expected harmony does not arrive and cannot be found. The instruments start slowly circling because they cannot think what else to do. Inexplicable dissonances creep in. The music seems to be losing its way, and eventually it just comes to a sounding stop on a sustained soft discord, fading into toneless whispers.
There is an effort here to refresh aged notions. Because Mr. Silvestrov’s turns of phrase are never quite completed – or because any completion sounds partial and tentative – they reach to some extent from the realm of the borrowed to speak firmly and newly. And they help themselves do so both by taking on novel timbres ( the vibratoless sounds of the quartet) and by extending a strong appeal to their performers (an appeal to which a particularly powerful, rich and vital response comes from the cellist Anja Lechner and the pianist Silke Avenhaus in two works). (Paul Griffiths, The New York Times)

Rosamunde Quartett DINO SALUZZI

The Kultrum collaboration between Argentinian bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi and the Munich-based German-Austrian-Australian Rosamunde Quartet was initiated in 1996. Featuring Saluzzi's chamber music for bandoneon and string quartet, Kultrum is both a "departure" and an extension of Dino's previous ECM recordings (in fact the title echoes that of his first disc for the label), in which - as Swiss critic Peter Rüedi has noted - he acknowledges and then transgresses the boundaries: between composition and improvisation, between so-called serious and popular music, between folk music and jazz and tango.
The genesis of the project, however, can be traced back specifically to Saluzzi's solo album Andina of 1988 and a small piece added as a postscript to that session. The sound of the bandoneon on "Memories" seemed to imply a wave of orchestration, and the suggestion that a string quartet could bring this out more fully was left for Saluzzi to ponder.
In the interim, the Rosamunde Quartet - whose tastes are unusually comprehensive for a classical ensemble - raised Saluzzi's name among a list of enthusiasms from Haydn to Nono in the course of production discussions with ECM. A Munich concert by the Saluzzi Trio provided an opportunity for Dino and cellist Anja Lechner to meet and exchange ideas and in June 1996, the Saluzzi-Rosamunde collective began rehearsing together.
Saluzzi insists that tango players would have been inadequate interpreters of his new music. "I needed freedom from the tango form. At the same time, I also feel responsibility to conserve the tradition, and it's dangerous to move, but we have to move." Not least to defend the territory from the numerous classical players claiming Argentine inspirations this season - now that Piazzolla is safely dead!
The Kultrum project has toured over the last two years, to critical and public acclaim, as Saluzzi and the quartet have honed the material. A few days before the recording at the Austrian monastery of St Gerold (site of such significant New Series recordings as the Jan Garbarek/Hilliard Ensemble Officium album, Giya Kancheli's Exil, Paul Giger's Schattenwelt, Michelle Makarski's Caoine and Eduard Brunner's Dal Niente), the collective played an ecstatically-received concert at Munich's Prinzregententheater. (ECM Records)

Rosamunde Quartett TIGRAN MANSURIAN String Quartets

Mansurian writes extremely well for quartet; the textures and polyphonic working are basically traditional, with little in the way of outré effect. … The Second Quartet consists of three slow movements, putting one in mind of the five Adagios of Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Quartet. This is a work of ravishing if crepuscular beauty, deeply tonal, whose melodic language is partly influenced by a song by the much-loved Armenian national composer Komitas as well as by Armenian sacred music of the middle ages. … The performances by the Rosamunde Quartett of all three works bespeak utter identification with the music and create a very finely tuned chiaroscuro of quiet dynamics. (Calum MacDonald / International Record Review)

Both string quartets are beautiful, profoundly moving pieces of great consolatory power and expressive strength, albeit in discreet and introspective. However, for all its apparent simplicity, Mansurian’s music cannot be compared with what is now often referred to as Holy Minimalism… Because of its predominantly melodic character, Mansurian is more linear and more coherent from a stylistic point of view. … These splendid performances were recorded under the composer’s supervision and have a strong ring of authenticity. They are not likely to be superseded anytime soon. (Hubert Culot / Music Web)

Imbued with dark emotions, the music is not meant for easy listening, but like a good novel, it communicates a real human condition and predicament. Through these intimate compositions, we get closer to the inner world of Tigran Mansurian, the enigmatic and soulful composer with a searching mind. (Ara Arakelian / The Armenian Reporter inernational) 

jueves, 22 de junio de 2017

Hans-Joachim Roedelius / Arnold Kasar EINFLUSS

With delicate piano themes and atmospheric electronic sounds, Hans-Joachim Roedelius & Arnold Kasar develop a unique chemistry. The fact that they are part of different generations of musicians is one of the reasons for the uniqueness and the magic of their encounter.
Roedelius is one of the forefathers of Kosmische and Krautrock. With his bands Cluster and Harmonica, he played a major role in the development of these movements. Roedelius was formed by the political and social uprising of the late sixties and the seventies. Today Roedelius is able to look back on more than a hundred releases and collaborations ranging from his longtime companion Dieter Moebius to acclaimed international artists such as Brian Eno or younger musicians like Tim Story.
Arnold Kasar is almost thirty years younger than Roedelius, he is a child of Berlin´s crossover scene of the 1990s. He broke the line between electronic dance music and jazz, he played with Micatone, Nylon and Friedrich Lichtenstein. As a session musician, arranger and producer, he contributed to many releases of the influential Berlin label Sonar Kollektiv.
Kasar is a classically trained pianist, Roedelius did not even learn to read music. Their approach is as different as it can be, yet they share an openness to musical forms and their collaborative partners. In their joint sessions in Baden near Vienna, Roedelius quickly decided he wants to play the piano. Kasar had the idea to prepare the piano with sheets of felt, creating the unique, tender, intimate sound of the album. “Joachim [Roedelius] has a nice, soft stroke”, explains Kasar: “He never had a piano lesson in his life. He does not compose, yet he does something with the piano which is similar to what he does with the synthesizers. I cannot explain it, but it touches something inside of me.” Kasar responds in the most immediate fashion to Roedelius' piano play using his electronic instruments.
Within three days more than thirty pieces were produced. “We’ve needed our entire lifetimes to get there”, Roedelius smiles. “Einfluss” is not about technology, not about precession, not about structure, but about flow. Where others musicians seek total control, Roedelius and Kasar let themselves go. In this way, they can open up to and respond to the other player in an unique way. It is not a matter of demonstrating some kind of craft, to prove one's ability to play the piano or to compose impressive music. Rather, they want the listener to share a joint experience with them. “The special thing about it is that we did not intend to make something special”, smiles Roedelius.


This release features song excerpts from various long-form theater pieces, the first four coming from Meredith Monk's theater piece Acts From Under and Above, and these are the most jarring on the record. "Scared Song" features English lyrics, minimal accompaniment, and Monk singing harsh, abrasive "scared" sounds. Very unsettling -- and perhaps that is the intention. "Do You Be," a selection from her opera Vessel, features Monk solo on piano and voice with a shrill, piercing wail. Very satisfying. Additional selections from Vessel appear on Monk's 1992 recording Facing North. With one exception, the remaining tracks come from a Monk/Ping Chong science fiction epic opera called The Games, and these more diverse, more exploratory pieces really make the collection work as a recording. A casual listener unfamiliar with the theater pieces may well be put off by the abrasiveness of the first four tracks, which may unfortunately be enough to deter them from the remainder of the recording. But beyond some questionable programming choices, fans of her work will be delighted to see her continuing development as a recording artist.

MEREDITH MONK Impermanence

In her album Impermanence, Meredith Monk succeeds in creating pieces that fit her theme well and much of this music does indeed seem ephemeral, fleeting. These works are not casually or routinely constructed, though; their apparent simplicity masks a psychological and musical sophistication that's evident in the way their carefully placed details contribute to their surprising impact. The prevailing mood of the album is melancholy, but not passive sadness; even the songs that deal most explicitly with loss, such as Last Song (which opens the album) and Liminal, are punctuated with astonishing, defiant gestural outbursts that make it clear that Monk has no intention of going gentle into that good night. One of the strengths of the album is the variety of its pieces; Monk is never repeating herself or just recycling ideas. Pieces such as Particular Dance, for voices and mixed ensemble, are lively and full of unpredictable humor, and Maybe 1, for eight pianos, is a quirky, minimalist-inspired bagatelle. The textural variety of the pieces is also appealing; almost all of them use voices in one way or another, but the voice is often used instrumentally or as accompaniment to the instruments. Monk and her ensemble perform with great delicacy and sensitivity to each other; this is clearly a group of singers and instrumentalists that knows how to listen, and each member is constantly calibrating his or her contribution with the sounds of the others, as in the best chamber music performances. ECM's sound is immaculate. The album is a significant addition to Monk's discography and should be of strong interest to fans of new vocal music that pushes the envelope but is still accessible and engaging. 

Stile Antico GIACHES DE WERT Divine Theatre

Little is known about the early life of Giaches de Wert, except that he was born in 1535 somewhere in the region of Antwerp or Ghent (perhaps in the small village of Weert between the two cities). From his youth, however, his world was more Italian than Flemish: as a child he was taken to Italy to be one of the Marchesa of Padulla’s choristers. In his mid-teens he moved to serve an offshoot of the Gonzaga family at Novellara, but soon made connections with the nearby ducal courts of Mantua – where the devout Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga had a particularly keen interest in church music – and Ferrara, long famed for its musical prestige thanks to the patronage of the Este family, where he was influenced by the madrigalist Cipriano de Rore. After a short spell in Milan, he returned to Mantua in 1565 as maestro di cappella in Duke Guglielmo’s recently completed chapel of Santa Barbara. There he was to remain for the rest of his life, though not without maintaining connections (both musical and, during the mid-late 1580s, romantic) with the court at Ferrara, where the lively musical life must have been a welcome distraction from his not always happy existence at the Mantuan court.
Giaches de Wert is best known for his madrigals - the perfect bridge between the polyphony of the high Renaissance and the new style of Monteverdi. Stile Antico's new album introduces us to another side of this composer who, though Flemish-born, spent most of his life in Italy, primarily in Mantua. The unique and dramatic style of these remarkable motets cannot fail to ravish explorers of this 'divine theatre'. 

ATLAS an opera in three parts by MEREDITH MONK

With this, Meredith Monk's latest record and one of her most substantial pieces, a number of questions have to be raised and satisfactorily answered. Atlas is a self-declared opera, yet is an opera virtually without words. It has a narrative, yet the narrative would be imperceptible to the CD listener unless it was relayed in an accompanying note which, by definition, is separate to the musical entity called Atlas. Judging by the booklet-note by Max Loppert and the accompanying photographs of the 1991 Houston premiere, these problems would not attend an actual staging of this work where the music has a clear and narrative-based context throughout.
So, how are we to approach this work in its CD form? A parallel which comes to mind is listening to a conventional opera sung in a tongue which one doesn't understand, and for which one has neither libretto nor synopsis. Or, perhaps even more aptly, a ballet where one is similarly strapped for a story-line and unable to see the dancers. Several layers of meaning are left unilluminated but we are left with the music itself.
What is encouraging about Monk's work here is that, as opposed to some of her drier exercises from the past, it does have a feeling of continuity and of succession: each section grows from the previous one, and there is a sense of thematic and motivic growth (albeit not along formal lines) which marks it out from the more militant miniaturist compositions. Monk is also interested in creating music which is pleasant to listen to and which paints pictures, even to the listener with no idea of the story-line. There is a large cast of singers, but it is rare for more than four characters to be singing simultaneously, and more often Monk uses voices in quick succession, each working with different musical material, to build up her overall picture.
The accompaniment is supplied by just ten instruments, five of these being strings. It is very sensitively attuned to the vocalisation, and also contributes some purely musical interludes of great charm. The performance level is very high, the dedication is evident at every turn: as a substitute for being there, this set will do nicely. But I'd love to see a production mounted in this country; or perhaps ECM could release a video version?' (kshadwick / Gramophone)

miércoles, 21 de junio de 2017

Valery Afanassiev FRANZ SCHUBERT Moments Musicaux

Pianist Valery Afanassiev – renowned for strikingly individual and deeply introspective interpretations of the music of Franz Schubert – has now paired two often extrovert works by the composer: the set of six “Moments musicaux” and the “Sonata D 850”. Recorded in September 2010 at the Auditorio Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano, this is ECM’s second solo Schubert release by the Moscow-born pianist, having previously issued a live recording of Afanassiev performing Schubert’s final “Sonata D 960” at the 1985 Lockenhaus Festival that has become a much-discussed favourite among connoisseurs.
Composed from 1823 to 1827, the year before the composer’s death at age 31, the “Moments musicaux” brim with song and dance, as well as Schubert’s characteristic mood swings from major to minor, from light to dark, often within a single piece. With its glittering surface, the brief “No. 3 in f minor” was one of Schubert’s more popular piano pieces for decades; but the ballroom-worthy tune has an odd tension underneath, as if the party were bound to end early. “No. 1 in C major” has melodies reminiscent of the composer’s “Winterreise”, while the two in A-flat major, No. 2 and 6, tap rich veins of melancholy, particularly in Afanassiev’s interpretations. “No. 4 in c-sharp minor” is another number that swirls like a woman dancing with tears in her eyes. “No. 5 in f minor” is the set’s lone thoroughly fast-paced number, although even its up-tempo leaps have a brittle quality. 
The “Sonata D 850”, written in 1825, is one of Schubert’s most ebullient piano sonatas – with Ländler-like melodies, simulated horn calls and strongly syncopated rhythms; he composed the piece over three weeks in the spa town of Gastein, so the environment undoubtedly contributed to the sonata’s high spirits. Yet, as with so many works by this composer, there are also passages in “D 850” pregnant with nostalgia and emotional ambiguity, especially in the second movement, which Afanassiev explores with meditative concentration. (ECM Records)


Meredith Monk has such a wonderful and unique vocal style that she is able to sing in complete abstraction (no known words or language for much of the album) yet maintain a very emotional and even sentimental quality in these abstractions, at times. Listeners who can get past just how unique and abstract her approach is will find immense joy and sadness deep within her pieces. On Dolmen Music, Monk wavers from being sad to the point of being quite morose (such as the tracks "Gotham Lullaby" and "The Tale") to being happy to the point of hysteria (as on "Traveling" and "Biography") without skipping a beat. Most of the musical accompaniment is minimalist (mainly piano with occasional, sparse percussion, guest vocalists also being prominent on the final six-part track "Dolmen Music"). This minimalist support only furthers Monk's vast vocal language as the prominent focus in the recordings. Listeners will also be very pleased to find that her wonderful voice is not crowded or overshadowed. A true original, Monk's work should be sought by anyone with an interest in vocal exploration.


A daring display of vocal gymnastics and a journey back to childhood when all sounds were wondrous, Turtle Dreams includes the title track composition for four voices (two men, two women) and four organs as well as shorter pieces featuring various combinations of voice, Casio, piano, miniMoog, and didgeridoo. Monk's work raises smiles as well as the hair on the back of the neck. Here she seems tapped into some primordial force -- humming, babbling, chattering, all set to looping, funereal organ works of chromatic simplicity. Mesmerizing yet never mechanical, the side-long "Turtle Dreams" and "View 1" derive their pleasures from the infinite sounds of the human voice. The entire album accompanied a multimedia work where Monk and three other singer/dancers were intercut with shots of a turtle walking over various terrains (including miniature cities, looking like a monster movie). Comforting thoughts during any listen. (Ted Mills)

John Holloway / Jaap ter Linden / Lars Ulrik Mortensen JEAN-MARIE LECLAIR Sonatas

Following his acclaimed recordings of sonatas by Biber, Schmelzer and Veracini and his no less lauded rendering of the complete unaccompanied works by Bach, British violinst John Holloway once again joins forces with his excellent partners Jaap ter Linden and Lars Ulrik Mortensen for an album of strikingly beautiful, yet little known chamber music from the baroque era. Jean-Marie Leclair (1697–1764) who trained as a dancer, lacemaker, violinist and composer and was murdered in Paris under obscure circumstances, laid the foundations for the French violin school. As a composer he is a master of mixed styles, providing a rare synthesis of Italian and French traits, of melodic beauty and dancelike vivacity. John Holloway has chosen sonatas from his “classical” period in which Leclair had gained a perfect balance of proportion, expressiveness and virtuosic display. (ECM Records) 

This came as quite a revelation. Choosing five sonatas from what he believes to be Leclair’s finest collection, and, along with his colleagues, performing them with deep understanding and expressive finesse, John Holloway makes a persuasive case for the French violinist as a major figure of 18th-century music. … All three players capture unerringly each movement’s rhetorical style, and are sensitive to the many expressive details of harmony and melody, while remaining natural and unaffected. … I urge you to listen. (Duncan Druce / Gramophone)

John Holloway BIBER Unam Ceylum

This is a disc of such stunningly brilliant virtuosity that is hard to know where to start. … This is bravura music in the truest sense, music capable of moving from dynamic energy to eloquence in less time than it takes to write the words, music that can hurtle forward with seemingly unstoppable momentum only to fall back to calm, sensuous lyricism, music that can encompass everything from skilled counterpoint to rumbustuous humour. Holloway’s performances encompasses all this with playing of amazing fluency and bravura passion, at times leaving the listener gasping. He is ably supported (as on his equally superb Schmelzer disc) by both organ and harpsichord, a combination that apparently caused some critical muttering over the Schmelzer recording. The recording has a vivid presence, giving the impression that all three players are in the room with the listener. In short this is a staggering celebration of the art of violin playing that should immediately be added to every Goldberg reader’s collection without delay. (Brian Robins / Goldberg ) 

Virtuosic, experimental, meditative, Biber was a man who seems to have been able to say whatever he liked through the medium of his instrument, and Holloway has contributed as much as anyone to modern-day recognition of his status as one of the greatest of all violinist-composers. … With the violin resonating pleasingly through the many double and triple-stoppings, and Holloway’s bowing demonstrating a delicious lightness and freedom, these fundamentally inward, tonally aware performances also seem somehow to have more of the smell of the 17th century about them than their current rivals. … A respectfully resonant recording is a help here, as is the gentle but effectively unfussy continuo support of harpsichord and organ. (Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone)

András Schiff / Miklós Perényi LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Complete Music for Piano and Violoncello

“Beethoven’s five sonatas for piano and cello show in a nutshell the same evolution that the 32 piano sonatas show,” said András Schiff recently, in an American radio interview. “You have this wonderful young lion Beethoven in the opus 5 sonatas, you have the opus 69, the A major, which stands in the middle of his life, and then you have these wonderful two works, opus 102, which are at the gates of the late style, the last phase. And these are in a way experimental works, but fully crystallized.”
András Schiff’s decision to record Beethoven’s complete works for piano and cello is characteristic for a musician who has set himself the challenge of undertaking many complete cycles of works in his concert life. Recitals and special cycles including the major keyboard works of J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann and Bartók have long been an important part of his activities. A special focus in 2004, for instance, has been performance of the complete  Beethoven Piano Sonatas in chronological order. For Schiff, this is a matter of “curiosity, and trying to see connections, to see the development and evolution of a composer in a certain genre. It’s a learning process I would like to share with my listeners.”
The works for piano and cello are realized here with Miklós Perényi. “There is a great affinity between us, coming from the same country and the same city, Budapest.” Five years his senior, Perényi’s status as “a wunderkind, a child prodigy” was a local legend when Schiff was growing up. Subsequently, Perényi was to become the favourite pupil of Pablo Casals; for András Schiff, his countryman is “the greatest cellist alive today”. Pianist and cellist have been chamber music partners for a long time now, intensifying their musical relationship during Schiff’s decade-long directorship of the Musiktage Mondsee and playing concerts together around the world.
There is no shortage of repertoire for cello and piano today, but  when Beethoven wrote his opus 5 sonatas in 1796, at the age of 25, the instrumentation was still considered novel. Schiff feels that these are Beethoven’s “first very brilliant compositions”. In the opus 5 works, however, the cello and piano are not yet equal partners: “With all respect to the cello, these are very virtuoso piano parts that Beethoven played, these were really show pieces for himself. And the cello part is of course very demanding and very important but the piano carries the weight of the drama.” This puts a responsibility on a pianist: “You have to be not overpowering while still keeping the force and the weight.” The opus 5 pieces are distinct in character. Opus 5/1 sets out “to entertain in a very noble way. It’s youthful, this is a young Beethoven, and it’s full of life and also full of humour;” Opus 5/2 is “very dramatic and very dark in colour”, at least until its concluding rondo where the sun breaks through the clouds.
By the time Beethoven wrote the A major Sonata op. 69, in the winter of 1807/8, he was already on the other side of his so-called “middle period”, and in between the composing of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. His writing for the combination of cello and piano “had also evolved radically,” as Martin Meyer writes in the liner notes for this collection. Opus 69 proceeds dialectically; it is created out of contrasts that seem finally obliterated by the motoric energy of the concluding Allegro vivace. Meyer: “From the composer’s own declarations one could aptly cite here his expressed desire that his work be marked solely by a constant advance toward something new and different.”
In 1815 Beethoven composed the Sonatas Op. 102, the first of which he described as a “free Sonata”, meaning “that one should no longer try to rationalize the logic of its unconventional structure” (Meyer). Schiff describes the fugue in the final movement of Op. 102/2, as “still a puzzle after almost 200 years”. Its ‘modernity’ is extraordinary: “It’s still giving a hard time to listeners and performers because it makes no compromises. It’s very tough, yet it is beautifully conceived, it’s perfectly written. When we started this with Miklós Perényi, we really analyzed it, and sometimes just played it really slowly, just enjoying every moment and every little corner of it.”
Completing the double-CD programme are four works played less often: three sets of “Variations” for cello and piano from the “early” period, based respectively on themes from Mozart’s Magic Flute and Handel’s Judas Maccabeaus, and the “Horn Sonata” Op. 17, which was written originally for Bohemian waldhorn virtuoso Giovani Punto, who premiered the work together with Beethoven in 1800. The composer later revised the horn part for cello. (ECM Records)

Miklós Perényi BRITTEN - BACH - LIGETI

Miklós Perényi plays Benjamin Britten’s Third Suite op. 87 and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite VI D-Dur BWV 1012, making plain an historical interconnection. Britten wrote his cello suites for Rostropovich, inspired by hearing him playing the Bach suites. Rostropovich hailed all of Britten’s cello suites as masterpieces but singled out the third (written 1971) for special praise: “sheer genius”, in his words. Into the fabric of the thematic material Britten wove fragments of melodies from Russian folk songs, only allowing them to emerge fully in the final movement. On this disc, Bach’s last cello suite follows Britten’s, and Perényi’s Bach dances with elegance and energy. The album concludes with a return to Hungary, and Ligeti’s cello sonata of 1948-1953. Ligeti released the piece for publication only in 1979, so it figures in the chronology (as Paul Griffiths points out in the notes) both before and after the Britten. This disc is Perényi’s first ECM solo recital, and follows his brilliant performance, alongside András Schiff, in the 2001/2 recordings of the Complete Music for Piano and Violoncello by Beethoven. 
As Paul Griffiths writes, “Through Perényi’s artistry we come to understand how the sound of the cello – such a rich sound here, as natural as wood, with the grain and the strength of wood – cannot be separated from the composition being realized, nor the composition from its instrument. There is no music without sound, and there is no sound without music. Perényi’s sound speaks to us warmly and sagely and also humorously of the cello, of its sonorous possibilities, of its exceptionalness in western music as a solo instrument that addresses us from a low register, of its whole history and culture. We cannot forget for a moment that what we are hearing is cello sound, and the fine detail of this recording may even convince us at times that we are hearing the action of the cello being played. Yet in no way does this diminish our closeness to the music. On the contrary, the more we hear the sound, the more we hear the music.”  (ECM Records)

martes, 20 de junio de 2017

PETER RUZICKA Metastrofe - "...fragment..." - Stress - In processo di tempo - Bewegung

German composer of mostly orchestral, chamber, choral, and vocal works that have been performed throughout the world; he is also active as an administrator, conductor and writer. 
Prof. Ruzicka initially studied music theory and piano with Peter Hartmann and oboe with Egbert Gutsch at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg from 1963–68. He later studied law and musicology in Munich, Hamburg and Berlin from 1968–76 and earned his doctorate under the supervision of Wilhelm Nordemann in 1977. 
Among his honours are the Kompositionspreis from the city of Stuttgart (1969, for Esta Noche [Trauermusik für die Opfer des Krieges in Vietnam]), a prize in the competition Bartók in Budapest (1970, for 2. Streichquartett, '...Fragment...' [withdrawn]), a mention in the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers (1971, for Metastrofe [Versuch eines Ausbruchs]), First Prize in the competition of the Internationale Gaudeamus Muziekweek in Amsterdam (1972, for In processo di tempo...), the Bach-Preis der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg (1972), and the Louis Spohr Musikpreis Braunschweig (2004, for his œuvre and his promotion of new music). He has been a member of the Akademie der Künste in Munich since 1985 and of the Freie Akademie der Künste in Hamburg since 1987. 
As an administrator, he served as artistic director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin from 1979–87, as director of the Staatsoper Hamburg and the Hamburger Staatsphilharmoniker from 1988–97 and as artistic advisor of the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest in Amsterdam from 1997–99. He served as artistic director of the Münchener Biennale from 1996–2014, has served as president of the Bayerische Akademie für Theater since 1999 and served as artistic director of the Salzburger Festspiele from 2001–06.

Herbert Henck CHARLES IVES Piano Sonata No. 2 "Concord, Mass., 1840-1860"

Charles Ives' "Concord" Sonata has come to be recognized as perhaps the greatest of American piano works. Largely composed over the years 1911-1915, it contains some of the most radical experiments in harmony and rhythm of its time. Pianist John Kirkpatrick, long associated with the music of Ives, gave the work its historic first performance at New York's Town Hall on January 20, 1939.
While working on the initial publication of the sonata in 1919, Ives wrote his Essays Before a Sonata, in which he discusses the genesis and content of the work. He described the sonata as his "impression of the spirit of transcendentalism that is associated in the minds of many with Concord, MA, of over a half century ago,...undertaken in impressionistic pictures of [Ralph Waldo] Emerson and [Henry David] Thoreau, a sketch of the Alcotts, and a Scherzo supposed to reflect a lighter quality which is often found in the fantastic side of [Nathaniel] Hawthorne." Ives' interest in American literature, pursued during his student days at Yale, was reawakened by his wife Harmony (whom he married in 1908) and became integral to the sonata.
The monumental, dissonant beginning of the "Emerson" movement creates the impression of a vast struggle. The famous four-note motto from the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony emerges (as it does elsewhere in the work), representing, according to Ives, "the Soul of humanity knocking at the door of the Divine mysteries." Thick, almost orchestral sonorities dominate this longest of the sonata's four movements. Toward the end a viola makes a ghostly two-measure appearance. Ives never felt this movement to be entirely finished; numerous variants exist, and he later created a new work, Four Transcriptions from Emerson, which develops some of its ideas further.
The "Hawthorne" movement acts as a scherzo, with wild flurries of notes, a couple of brief lyrical episodes, and hints of hymn tunes and a country band. At one point, Ives directs the pianist to use a 14 3/4" piece of wood to sound an enormous tone cluster. All this is meant to evoke what the composer called Hawthorne's "wilder, fantastical adventures into the half-childlike, half-fairylike phantasmal realms."
The peaceful third movement, "The Alcotts," serves as a respite. Here Ives meditates on the calm of Concord's streets and the "trials and happiness of the family." Beethoven's Fifth reappears, this time transformed into a nostalgic tune, as Ives imagines one of the Alcotts playing on "the little old spinet-piano Sophia Thoreau gave to the Alcott children."
For the closing "Thoreau" movement, Ives creates a portrait of "an autumn day of Indian summer at Walden." The constant use of the piano's pedals creates an almost impressionistic atmosphere as the slow, enigmatic music unfolds, only raising its voice on a couple of occasions. An ostinato bass line pervades much of the second half of the movement. Thoreau's instrument, the flute, appears briefly with a lyrical melody symbolizing "a mist heard over Walden Pond." The movement ends quietly. (Chris Morrison)

Marek Konstantynowicz / Cikada Ensemble / Norwegian Radio Orchestra / Christian Eggen MORTON FELDMAN The Viola in My Life

Morton Feldman’s The Viola in My Life (1970/71) is a work of great scope and detail. Each of its first three parts is scored for viola and a variety of chamber ensembles, while the last pairs viola with orchestra in what Feldman calls a “translation” of the first three. Unlike his earlier forays into indeterminacy, Viola is thoroughly composed. Its genius lies in Feldman’s ability to forge massive amounts of empty space into a layered resonance that is anything but “minimal.” The music slowly undulates in tune with the viola’s crests and fades, touched by patches of darkness like a figure slowly walking through lattice-obstructed sunlight. The viola is the center around which the other instruments revolve. This revolution brings the listener full circle with each new phrase, for despite the seeming regularity, each marks an uncertain orbit. The piano in parts I and III grazes the edges of silence, in pursuit of nothing but its own pursuit; the celesta in part II dots our minds with stars; and the orchestral backdrop of part IV carries the viola like a feather riding an upward breath. Such ethereality harbors no romantic promise of freedom. As Feldman himself admits, “The viola’s crescendos are a return to a preoccupation with a musical perspective which is not determined by an interaction of corresponding musical ideas—but rather like a bird trying to soar in a confined landscape.” Eventually we must reperch, and Viola is constantly skirting the boundaries of our cage like a silent but ever-watchful eye. And as I drift off to sleep during the final movement, I feel the eye closing around me, like a lost child embracing himself in lieu of human contact.
This album could easily be titled “The Life in My Viola,” for it is so rich with intimations of a generative spirit. The recording and performances are finely attuned to the music’s inner core, the Cikada Ensemble creating a fine setting for Marek Konstantynowicz’s restrained soloing throughout. Morton Feldman can be a challenge, but his rewards can be even more internal than his music. (ECM Reviews)


Ars Poetica is a choral “concerto” based on the poetry of Armenian writer Yegishe Charents (1897-1937). The language is rustic, bumpy, and delectable. The works of Charents, who suffered at the hands of the Stalinist regime and would die in a Yerevan prison for his politically “subversive” writings, were liberated with Stalin’s death in 1953. Likewise, his words seem to wrestle out of their national confines and onto the world stage through Tigran Mansurian’s faithful settings.
“Night” begins with breath; words are only implied, shaped by lips and lungs like rustling leaves. As the choir swells, a deeply affecting baritone solo intones: “But all was pale and dull around me, / No words were there, and there was no sun…” In this first of the Three Night Songs, we are ushered into a place where stillness is aflame. The Three Portraits of Women that follow turn our attention from the ethereal to the corporeal. Mansurian dresses these poems with darkness left over from the waning night. Lines such as “What Spirit was it that brushed / Your countenance in radiant strokes?” feel torn with pain, as if accepting the beauty of one’s love might lead to self-destruction in surrender. Archetypes of angels and maidens wander labyrinthine depths of their own making, impervious to the talons of words seeking purchase on their shoulders. Three Autumn Songs give us our first taste of sunlight trickling through the breaking clouds. Even so, melancholy is never far away, holding us in a lukewarm embrace as voices kneel before the awesome power of all that withers. And Silence Descends brings indefinite closure with a long untitled verse. Intermittent climaxes fall like sudden showers as a single soprano voice cuts through the din with a painful resignation. Language takes on yet another guise in the form of death, creeping along the streets and through back alleys, threatening to erase the text that is one’s existence from its sallow pages.
Mansurian’s compositional style is linguistically informed; not only because he is working with poetry that is already so very musical, but also because the Armenian language is such a vital part of Mansurian’s worldview and expressive deployment. Ars Poetica is a naked and vital work. It screams as its cries, whispering secrets and intimate thoughts as it careens through the cosmos with the quiet restraint of a meteor. Ultimately, it transcends language, bringing with it the promise of internal meanings through which orthography is wrung of its juices and fed to us drop by drop. (ECM Reviews)


Ostensibly a response to watching a Palestinian father and son fall prey to crossfire on the Gaza Strip, mercy journeys beyond grieving or anger to a meditative state that hints at both but submits to neither. The style is coolly contrapuntal: the opening “braid” unfolds like a slow vocal fugue then grows more agitated around the twominute mark as the piano enters and a woman protests across the musical line. Or ist it protest? More voices join in and the mellifluous accompaniment helps turn the tables for what sounds more like celebration. This energetic ambiguity is typical of Monk. … mercy appears to reflect elements of Reich-style minimalism, Satie-style economy, early vocal music and rustic harmonic twists typical of Bartók, Janáĉek, Enescu and the like. The modest resources used – a handful of voices, clarinets, tuned percussion, synthesiser, melodica, violin, viola – meld or converse unpremeditated, much as they would in a folk group. mercy is an outgrowth both of Monk’s maturity and the maturing musical trends that surround her. Like its subject, it is very much of our time. I was very taken with it. (Rob Cowan / Gramophone)


The Random House Dictionary defines volcano as “a vent in the earth’s crust through which lava, steam, ashes, etc., are expelled, either continuously or at irregular intervals.” In spite of human fears, the volcano is vital to the earth’s formation, sculpting the very landscapes we inhabit. For Meredith Monk, it would seem more importantly a source of fertility, and it is from this fertility that she opens herself to the generative spirit that infuses the world as a living organism. In this sense, she vocalizes a point of continuity between herself and listener, between the illusions of recorded sound and the illusions of physical bodies.
Like their referent, Monk’s Volcano Songs (1993-94) reveal the earth’s hidden forces, at once violent and graceful, as they are embodied in the human form. Fissures in the great cosmic wheel release their breath in chant, foregoing the detriment of words in search of untinctured expression. Therein lies the great irony of this music, and of the earthly condition that engenders its existence: namely, that in order to express detachment one must hold steadfastly to the ephemeral utterance as a point of departure. Hence the uncanny splitting of the self we find between Monk and Katie Geissinger in the duet portions of the Volcano cycle (for indeed, were I unaware of the album’s personnel, I might have thought that Monk was overdubbing herself). 
Compared to Monk’s six previous ECM New Series efforts, Volcano Songs is perhaps the most intimately recorded. Microphones seem fully embedded in these voices, subtly processed for reverberant effect. Ultimately, I feel that one gets out of this music only what one is willing to lay at its feet. It is both the beauty and the tragedy of the human voice: in pulling at the threads of our emotions, we must undo one thing to communicate another, so that by the end we have forgotten where we started, inhaling an idea that may very well outlive us. And just as a volcano spews forth its scalding breath into the atmosphere, so too must we eventually exhale, licking the fragile layer that separates our survival ever so delicately from the blank space beyond. The magic of Monk’s music is that it offers a glimpse of that other side, in terms that we can relate to. (ECM Reviews)

Herbert Henck JOHN CAGE Sonatas and Interludes HERBERT HENCK Festeburger Fantasien

“As well as being a superb technician,” wrote The Guardian last year, “Herbert Henck always puts together his discs with great thoughtfulness.” Viewed collectively, Herbert Henck’s recordings for ECM have added up to portrait gallery of some of the most fiercely independent spirits of 20th century music: the Spanish Mompou, whose “voice of silence” was inspired by St John of the Cross; the Russian Mosolov who found poetry in the hammerings of the iron foundry; the French composer Barraqué, whose massively complex Piano Sonata has defied all but the most gifted contemporary interpreters; the German composer Hans Otte, whose “Das Buch der Klänge” proposed “a new consciousness of sounds”; and, on “Piano Music” a double-portrait of two American mavericks, Conlon Nancarrow and George Antheil, whose music drew influence from early jazz and ragtime and the soundscape of the machine age.
“Locations”, however, gives the most complete indication of Henck’s musical range thus far. Although he is heard once again as a nonpareil interpreter of modern music – turning his attention to that “inventor of genius” (to quote Schoenberg), John Cage – he also appears as a most convincing improviser. And more than this, he shows his listeners how these aspects of his artistry are integrated, and how one impacts upon the other.
Disc One of this 2-CD set is devoted to an impeccable and creative account of John Cage’s seminally important “Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared  Piano”. Written in 1946-48,the “Sonatas and Interludes” revolutionized piano music, in several ways. First of all, there was the transformation of the sound. As “prepared” by Cage, with screws and bolts and erasers, the piano offered a vast range of new timbres, taking on the sonorities of a percussion orchestra – its shimmering gong-like sounds suggested the Gamelan ensembles of Indonesia. The new colours reflected an interest in oriental philosophy and also in what Cage called “considered improvisation”.
“Sonatas and Interludes” remains one of the most attractive of Cage’s early works, its character profoundly meditative. At the time, Cage subscribed to the Indian definition of the purpose of music, “to quiet the mind and render it susceptible to divine influence.” He went further: this music was “an attempt to express the ‘permanent’ emotions of Indian tradition: the heroic, the erotic, the wondrous, the mirthful, sorrow, fear, anger, the odious and their common tendency toward tranquillity.” His work for prepared piano anticipates the music of the music of the Minimalists of two decades later. It is pattern music, gentle pulse music, and it opens doors to music beyond Western art music. At the same time, as Cage scholar Richard Kostelanetz once noted, in its insinuating  prettiness it also has qualities in common with the music of Erik Satie, one of Cage’s formative enthusiasms.
On Disc Two, Henck offers two “freestyle extensions” of his work with composed music. His two sets of “Fantasies” are improvisations taped immediately after his recordings of Cage and of Mompou. Henck: “Though there were some good practical reasons for this, it also released me from the somewhat contradictory undertaking of having to be spontaneous and inventive on command, in other words at fixed times on predetermined days. The improvisatory ‘addenda’ relieved the tension and, in my opinion, benefited the preceding interpretations, with what might be termed the ‘school figures’ being followed by a ‘freestyle’ section offering greater and different freedom.”
Both cycles were recorded in the Evangelische Festeburgkirche in Preungesheim, a district of Frankfurt am Main.
 “The piano preparations were based on the requirements of Cage’s ‘Sonatas and Interludes’, which I had played shortly before. But unlike Cage, who did not use all the keys and also left certain notes unprepared, I wanted to modify the timbre of all the strings. For the higher registers I used screws and bolts of various sizes, for the copper-wound bass strings, mainly small rubber wedges. The metal preparations, which tended to produce sounds ranging from (cow)bell- and xylophone-like chiming to the occasional slight jangling, frequently obscured the original pitches. On the other hand, the rubber preparations inserted close to the end of the strings left the original pitches largely intact, changing only the timbre and duration of the notes. As in Cage, the prepared pitches were microtonally out of tune, producing unexpectedly shimmering, vibrating, sometimes even distinctly pulsating timbres. Even if the tone colours themselves were predetermined, they were not deployed according to a fixed plan; like so much else, they arose in the course of play, out of a sudden idea and spontaneous decision.”
A feature shared by the two series of improvisations is their use of glissando at extremely high speed. This is particularly prominent in the second duo of the first series, which also belongs to a set of glissando studies begun in 1990.
Herbert Henck has been playing improvised music for almost four decades. “Locations” is the first of his ECM recordings to include his improvisations. “I gained access to the field on my own, “ he says in his liner notes, “through the sheer joy of music and my delight in the opportunity to invent piano sonorities and deploy them according to my judgement, not to mention my need to communicate an emotional message in my own artistic medium.” (ECM Records)


As well as being a superb technician, the pianist Herbert Henck always puts together his discs with great thoughtfulness. This brilliantly executed programme of the renegade American composers Conlon Nancarrow and George Antheil may seem an unlikely juxtaposition, but it makes musical sense. ... The sources of Nancarrow’s inspirations are clear – the rhythmic energy and the syncopation come from jazz, while the clarity and the contrapuntal ingenuity stem from neoclassicism in general and Stravinsky in particular. Jazz and Stravinsky had also been the main inspirations of Antheil’s music more than a decade earlier, when this self-styled “bad boy of music” left the US (in 1922) to live in Europe for 11 years, touring as a pianist and scandalising his audiences with his own provocative compositions. At a recital in Paris in 1923, he played his Airplane Sonata, Sonata Sauvage and Mechanisms (all three included here by Henck, alongside the Jazz Sonata, and the Sonatina, of the same vintage, and the Sonatina for radio written six years later). ... The music is still immensely attractive, full of vigour and harmonic daring – some untethered harmonies anticipate the more abandoned moments of Messiaen, other insouciant tunes sound like close cousins of the music of the Parisian Les Six, and yet other works are entirely rhythmic. ... As far as I know, the two composers never met, but had they done so, they would have found they had a lot in common, as Henck so lucidly demonstrates. (Andrew Clements, The Guardian)

lunes, 19 de junio de 2017

Herbert Henck JOHN CAGE Early Piano Music

A musicologist, announcing his intention to lecture on “John Cage’s style” received from the composer the wry response: “You have a problem. There are so many.”
Few composers can have adopted the mantle of musical pioneer more enthusiastically than Cage. Whenever the “danger” of his music being accepted arose, he at once attempted to take it to the place “where it would not be accepted”, always insisting that his favourite music was the music not yet heard. The main thing was to keep moving. An enfant terrible and finally a père terrible of successive avant-gardes, Cage successively challenged all the parameters of music-making, leaving an often bewildering variety of compositions behind him.
In the last decades of his life – Cage died in 1992 – most critics, and many fellow musicians, had abandoned the attempt to keep pace with John Cage, finding it more convenient to consider him a musical philosopher than to wrestle with the implications of the ever-changing work. It became popular to read Cage in such still-illuminating books as “Silence”, “A Year From Monday”, “M” or “For The Birds”, sooner than listen to him. But re-evaluations are taking place today as time inevitably mutes the revolutionary impact of the work.
Two years ago, ECM New Series issued Herbert Henck’s account of Cage’s “Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano” (1946-8), widely considered to be a benchmark recording of this important work. Now Henck re-examines some of the other inventions of the young Cage, piano pieces written by the American composer between 1935 and 1948.
The oldest of these pieces here is “Quest”, apparently the second half of a two movement work. Along with the early “Two Pieces for Piano” and “Metamorphosis”, this gives us the clearest idea of Cage as a composer still in thrall to the work and ideas of Arnold Schönberg. (The extent of Cage’s studies with Schönberg has never been verified to the satisfaction of music historians, but it seems fairly certain that Cage at least attended Schönberg’s courses at the University of Los Angeles in the summer of 1935, if not the two years of tuition he subsequently claimed.) These are pieces still based on tone-rows.
“Ophelia” (1946) is dedicated to dancer and choreographer Jean Erdman with whom Cage often worked. Henck writes: “Ophelia” is one of Cage’s most sensually appealing piano pieces in every way. Inclining towards the dance style of Jean Erdman, it is often lively with marked rhythms.”
“The Seasons” (1947) gets its second airing on ECM in the Henck piano rendition. The American Composers Orchestra, under the direction of Dennis Russell Davies, previously recorded it – using the orchestral arrangement Cage prepared together with Lou Harrison and Virgil Thomson – on ECM New Series 1696. It’s an important piece, marking the beginning of Cage’s interest in Eastern thought. At the time of its composition, Cage, then 35, was immersing himself in the religious philosophy of both West and East – studying Meister Eckhardt as well as Sri Ramakrishna and Ananada Coomaraswamy and considering the points of contact between the diverse traditions of Christian mysticism, Buddhism and Hinduism (but he was still four years away from his important studies in Zen with D.T. Suzuki). He was also studying Indian music and becoming increasingly convinced that the function of music was – as many Indian philosophers had insisted – “to quiet the mind and render it susceptible to divine influence.”
“In A Landscape” (1948) also makes a second appearance on ECM, having previously been incorporated into Alexei Lubimov’s recital disc “Der Bote”. Since it follows a group of pieces called “Imaginary Landscape” it is highly likely the title is a Cagean pun on “Inner Landscape”.  It was premiered at Black Mountain College in North Carolina where Cage scandalized the faculty by proposing to the students that Satie was a superior composer to Beethoven. The poetic simplicity of Erik Satie was very much on Cage’s mind at the time (the French composer was to be a lifelong influence). Gently undulating, quietly unpredictable, the case can be made that Cage’s “In A Landscape” is a cousin to Satie’s  “Gymnopédies”. It is a highly attractive composition as are all these instances of John Cage’s early piano music. (ECM Records)