Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

(1908-92) Cantéyodjaya.
(born 1928) Klavierstücke Nos. I-V.
(1926-80)proiezioni sonore.
(born 1925) Composizione No. 1.
(born 1925) Piano Sonata No. 3.
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano).
Dabringhaus und Grimm MDG613 1004-2 [DDD] [64'19]

A glance at Steffen Schleiermacher's discography to date reveals that he lives and breathes the music of our century. His successful series of the piano music of John Cage is a landmark event (also on Dabringhaus und Grimm), and other composers recorded include Feldman, Cowell and Earle Brown. Being a composer himself, he is has the added benefit of having insights into the creative process itself.

All of this means that he has a belief in and a comprehension of this music that makes for riveting listening. On the present disc, he inaugurates a series which centres on one of the most exciting compositional meeting places of the twentieth century: the Darmstadt Summer Courses, a veritable melting pot of ideas from the high priests of the avant-garde. Of all the composers in attendance, the figures of Boulez and Stockhausen possibly loom the largest: but the disc opens with a piece by one of the founders of modern music, Olivier Messiaen. His Cantéyodjaya includes many characteristic features, including birdsong, the use of modes of limited transposition and non-retrogradable rhythms. Schleiermacher's incredible clarity, his decision never to shirk away from violence and his intellectual grasp of the structure of this piece is beyond reproach, the musical layering leading inevitably to the climax. Within the space of 13 minutes, Schleiermacher has journeyed a long way from his playfully phrased opening gestures.

Stockhausen's first five Klavierstücke are fragmentary, rarefied pieces: the rigorous strength of intellect of the fifth is particularly impressive. Schleiermacher appears to be the ideal medium for this hyper-expressive world, certainly at least the equal of Wambach (Schwann 310016) or the authoritative Aloys Kontarsky on Sony S2K53346.

Aldo Clementi and Franco Evangelisti represent the Italian contingent that could not resist the pull of Darmstadt. Evangelisti's output is represented by proiezioni sonore, which consists of isolated events separated by gripping, intense silences. Clementi's objectively named Composozione No. 1 originates from a disturbingly fragmented mind that makes for compulsive listening.

Finally, Boulez' Third Sonata emerges as a towering edifice. Schleiermacher's journey through the score (literally so, as there is no one preordained order to the constituent parts) elicits a complete range of dynamic and touch from the pianist. It comes as a surprise that Schleiermacher on occasion seems to literally make the figuration dance, contrasting this with harsh martellato. The piece ends as if there could indeed be any number of fragments to follow.

Fascinating, gripping and indispensable are all words that this recital brings to mind. Not for the faint-hearted, but the rewards are seemingly infinite.


Colin Clarke



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