Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Save around 22%
with these retailers

col legno collage series

Études, Invention, Capriccios, Musica ricercata, three pieces for Cembalo

Erika Haase (piano & harpsichord).
Col legno collage WWE 20501 62'27"

Kagel: Les idées fixes; Music for Keyboards and Orchestra; Opus 1.1990
RSO Saarbrucken/Mauricio Kagel.
Col legno collage WWE 20502 63'08"

Maderna: Austrahhlung; Oboe concerto No 1; Giardino religioso
SWF Symphony Orch/Tamayo etc; International Chamber Ensemble/Maderna, Lothar Faber (oboe); Netherlands RCO/Zender
Col legno collage WWE 20503 63'33"

Xenakis: Ata; N'Shima; Metastaseis; loolkos; Charisma; Jonchaies
SWF Symphony Orch/Gielen/Rosbaud/Ryan etc
Col legno collage WWE 20504  [67min]

Nono: Due espressioni; Fragmente - Stille, an Diotima; Post-Prae-Ludium
SWF Symph.Orch/Rosbaud/Gielen. Moscow String Quartet etc.
Col legno collage WWE 20505 [62.4]

(Distributor: Discovery)

This attractive, valuable series of contemporary composer portrait CDs from Germany has its first issues devoted to five key figures active in Europe during the second half of the 20th century, Ligeti, Kagel, Maderna, Xenakis and Nono. The distinctive covers each has a pair of eyes showing through a gap. When you lift out the CD, their full faces appear - a nice touch. The notes are rather on the brief side, but adequate. Some are studio recordings, many others high quality live radio recordings from the 1950s until mid-90s from contemporary music festivals in Darmstadt, Donaueschinger, Metz, Moscow etc. All of them can be recommended as desirable and good value, though evaluation of the music itself must depend upon personal taste.

György Ligeti, now 77, continues to be prolific, and this selection has the first book of the growing collection of piano Études (1985). Erika Haase, who worked on the recording with the composer, retraces his compositional footsteps with the early Capriccios (1947) and Invention (1948) which show him distancing himself gradually from Bartok. The 11 ricercars (1951-53), the last a Homage to Frescobaldi, go beyond what Hungarian orthodoxy would allow in the early 1950s and No. 10, in its wind quintet arrangement, had too many minor seconds for inclusion in a concert - in 1956 Ligeti left his native country!

Ligeti has made a significant contribution to the new harpsichord repertoire and Erika Haase shows herself equally adept on that instrument. His Hungarian passacaglia leads us in deceptively gently towards its cumulative complexity; Hungarian Rock is wild and obviously virtuosic in its demands, and the rapid tremolos of Continuum are conceived by Ligeti as like an illusion produced by revolving a stroboscopic disk.

Collectors will also want to consider Pierre-Laurent Aimard's recording of Ligeti's works for piano, including the second book of the Études and one from the third, in the new Sony Gyorgy Ligeti Edition, SK 62308 .

Mauricio Kagel, South American born, long resident in Germany, is a genial composer, subversive and quirky, a maker of film and regular contributor to the development of music-theatre. This collection of orchestral works written within a few years a decade ago (1987-1990) is perhaps the first of these CDs to try. Les idees fixes is a continuous set of five rondos (a pity not to have indexed the single track) which takes in elements of jazz and middle-Eastern folk music; there is plenty of virtuosity from the orchestra, lively percussion, one rondo has an insistent A on the piano. Colourful and rhythmic, with expectations constantly confounded. Music for Keyboards and Orchestra integrates four pianos; Opus 1.1990 does not avoid tonality and its sound events are counterpointed with percussion, suggesting maybe 'suspenseful film scenes'. I enjoyed it all thoroughly.

Bruno Maderna is, for me, the poet of this series. Revered by his colleagues, an outsider in Darmstadt who counteracted the primacy there of serialism and abstraction, his music draws on myth and his own experience of antifascist activity. He died of cancer in 1973, aged 53, and I have a vivid memory of a Festival Hall concert which he conducted only weeks before, with music of his own, and Brendel playing Schoenberg's piano concerto. Maderna's music is sensuous and evocative. There are several oboe concertos, the first of them included here, together with Austrahhlung, a half hour work for full orchestra with flute & oboe soli, mezzo soprano, the sung texts in various languages from an ancient Persian anthology, and a phrase 'so wunderbar' repeated by Maderna's own daughters. Giardino religioso has the conductor moving around and playing various instruments, the instrumentalists having choices 'as if taking a walk in a garden'. Nothing to hurt here!

For an exhilarating bath in cold water, there is a generous selection of five mature works by Iannis Xenakis (b. 1922), covering the period 1953-96. Most are loud, dissonant, and very exciting if you can take it! Xenakis had a colourful life as resistance fighter and architect (assistant to Le Corbusier) and a master of mathematics and computer science, used for aesthetic objectives. N'shima (1975) for two singers and five instruments was sketched using a computer and made a big impact, and still does so. Metastaseis (1953) astounded with its building of dense textures with integral glissandi, and he used similar techniques when designing for Le Corbusier a pavilion for the 1958 World's Fair. loolkos is dominated by clusters from the start. Jonchales is evocative of birds congregating, with thunder, fairground drumming and calmer bells and flutes to end. Ata for 89 instruments has high energy, Xenakis describing it as 'a displacement of the senses'.

Luigi Nono (1924-90) is not for everyone, and indeed not for me, but he is highly regarded and was a (posthumous) featured composer at a recent Huddersfield Festival. . His sound world is typically fragmented, with silences a common feature. Due espressioni has microtonal shifts within a narrow, self imposed span of 3 semitones, long pauses between sound events 'reminiscent of the silence after death'?! Post-Prae-Ludium is for bass tuba and live electronics. The string quartet Fragmente - Stille, an Diotima, which can also be heard on the Arditti String Quartet Edition [Montaigne WM 334. 789005], treats Holderlin's poems characteristically, with delicate nuances 'bordering on the inaudible'..


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

Reviews from previous months

Reviews carry sales links but you can also purchase from:

Return to Index