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Mauricio KAGEL (1931-2008)
Metapiece (Mimetics) für Klavier (1961) [14:00]
Cuatro piezas para piano (1954) [6:46]
An Tasten (1977), gleichzeitig mit Mimetics (Metapiece) [18:24]
MM 512 (1976) [8:43]
Metapiece (Mimetics) für Klavier (1961) [23:54]
Sabine Liebner (piano)
rec. 2017, Studio 2, Bayerischen Rundfunks, München.
WERGO WER73632 [71:47]

I last came across Sabine Liebner in her admirable Giacinto Scelsi recording for Wergo, and this is another fine performance of some intriguing music in superb sound. As explained in the booklet note, Mauricio Kagel’s solo piano work Metapiece can be performed as a stand-alone work, or “played together – either simultaneously or in alternation – with other pieces by Kagel or other living composers, and is then called Mimetics.”

Liebner has chosen to work exclusively with music by Kagel, which gives the whole enterprise a unity of style – certainly in its alternating movements together with the Cuatro piezas para piano. Both of these have that mid-20th century modernist flavour, being short, atonal movements, working around a great deal of silence with often aphoristic sounding gestural phrases with wide extremes of dynamic and angular, inscrutable musical shapes. There are moments of violence and of beauty, and with one’s ears attuned one can perceive plenty of subtlety in terms of sonority and articulation. Mimetics is graphically notated and the Cuatro piezas are conventionally notated, but you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference.

An Tasten is an entirely different kind of music, being an ‘etude’ based on conventional triads in a progression that, in its own way, inhabits a similar world to Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli works from the same period. Kagel’s notes darken and develop into something more Lisztian at times, but the contrast with the strange notes of Mimetics overlaid could hardly be greater. The effect in some sections is something like a big music box with broken bits that get in between the pins and lamellae to create random interference, though the sounds and notes of Mimetics seem to be spread a bit thin, so that An Tasten is very much the dominant work.

MM 51 is subtitled ‘A Piece of Film Music for Piano’. The theatrical elements in this piece include a metronome that ticks throughout, juicy high-drama film-music chords and action rhythms to go along with serialist modernism, and an acting role for the pianist that involves maniacal laughter and a final ‘heart attack’. Liebner is very convincing here, and the penultimate minutes with the metronome limping unevenly and the music losing control are dramatic indeed.

The finale is the solo version of Metapiece (Mimetics), its movements presented in a different order to the alternating version at the beginning of the CD - not that you would necessarily be able to tell that difference, but in deliberately ending with No. 1 the circle is closed with at least the impression of completeness. You can make of this music what you will, and this is part of its strength. You can reject it as having no clothes, but then you discover that it cares deeply about what you think. The more you are prepared to immerse yourself the closer you are likely to come to being part of the participatory triangle of composer-performer-listener, an aspect potently existential throughout this recording.

Dominy Clements



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