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Carl RÜTTI (b.1949)
Pastorale [8:39]
Das Harfenbüchlein [36:02]
Die Insel [3:05]
Nachts [6:30]
Winterlandschaft [ 9:42]
3 Weihnachtslieder für das ganze Jahr [7:09]
Duo Praxedis
rec. 2019, Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg

Both members of the Swiss-based mother-and-daughter harp and piano Duo Praxedis are related to the composer Carl Rütti – the harpist is his sister and the pianist his niece – so it is hardly surprising that they have, for their 10th CD release, devoted an entire disc to his music. It is actually their second disc devoted to Rütti’s music; in 2013 their second disc (on the Guild label - review) was also of his music, but the two discs share no works in common. This may be taking them outside their usual repertory – their biography suggests that this is “the once popular repertory for harp and piano that flourished between 1700 and 1915” – and they may have had to encourage their relative to expand his own output to provide enough material to fill a second single CD, but not only do they sound utterly at ease with this musical idiom, but the music itself is all thoroughly idiomatic to this combination of instruments.

That much of the music is arranged from Rütti’s own vocal output is obvious from the inclusion in the booklet of the original sung texts. Yet, apart from the Ave Maria, the fifth of the nine songs arranged to create the “Little Harp Book”, there is neither any sense of a wordless vocal line in the music, nor a feeling that the texture has been limited by the standard voice ranges for which Rütti was originally writing. Perhaps the composer’s own distinct style, with its firm, slightly rock-infused rhythmic drive, bluesy harmonies and melodic lines which often resemble opened out arpeggios, naturally lends itself to the harp, as, most certainly, does his use of ebbing and flowing dynamics. It is hard to realise that the seventh piece, Tanz der Magdalena, was ever anything but a solo harp piece, so effectively is it arranged for the instrument, and so fluently does Hug-Rütti play it.

Whether or not the music had vocal origins, most of it has some kind of literary roots, often being inspired by specific verses of poetry which are printed in the booked. The innocuous Die Insel with its simple harp phrases interjecting into a calmly flowing piano part takes its inspiration from the writings of the Swiss nun Silja Walter. In a very different vein Nachts for solo piano evokes a dark, brooding text by Pfr. Heinz Egger. The Pastorale of 1985 has no obvious literary inspiration, although the title is perfectly self-explanatory for this atmospheric mood picture originally written for harp and string orchestra. Also without obvious literary inspiration, Winterlandschaft began life in 2003 as a work for piano four hands, but its cold, wintry soundscapes translate most effectively to the harp and piano duo, and as its musical temperature rises through tempo and dynamics, Duo Praxedis show their total affinity with this musical idiom.

The three Weihnachtslieder were originally settings of Silja Walter poems for female chorus, harp and organ written in 2009 to mark the poet’s 90th birthday. This arrangement for harp and piano neatly coincides with her centenary – she died in 2011 - and in many ways casts an entirely new light on the music, becoming more reflective and introverted and perfectly capturing the spirit of her often other-worldly literary visions. As with everything else on the disc, the Duo Praxedis dig deep into the music to express the deeply sympathetic and at times visionary character of Rütti’s writing.

Marc Rochester

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