Of all the 22 Mozart operas available through this M 22 DVD collection by Deutsche Gramophon, Betulia Liberata is the only one that is not staged. This is due to the fact that the piece itself is technically an oratorio, but its dramatic features (a city besieged, murder, starvation, religious conversion) generally assimilate the piece to an opera. And in a way it is a shame that Betulia is not staged since the music itself is not interesting enough to cope well with a concert version. The arias tend to drag along, the music is more serene, less expansive than Mitridate (the prior opera of young Wolfgang), and the musicians need to be seriously good to avoid their audience to fall into boredom… By Autonome
The Danish National Symphony Orchestra premieres the first two symphonies by their outstanding young composer-in-residence, Søren Eichberg. Eichberg is a very accessible composer who writes colourful and effectual music. He is currently working on a commission from the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.
A native of Munich, Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-1963) was without a shadow of a doubt the greatest symphonist in the Central European tradition since Bruckner and Mahler. The sketches and early versions of six of his eight symphonies had their origins in one of the darkest periods in world history – from 1933 to 1945 – when the Nazis were in power and Hartmann gradually withdrew completely from public life. This period, which culminated in Hartmann’s own ‘Innere Emigration’ (inner emigration), represented a decisive turning point in his creative development…
None of these reconstructions are included in Teldec’s Bach 2000, although the better-known ‘originals’ obviously are. The real newcomer is the Sinfonia, BWV1045 (5'34'') ‘to an unknown cantata’ which – as befits a BWV number that immediately precedes the First Brandenburg Concerto – is rumbustious, festive and thematically likeable. Time and again I could sense allusions to other Bach instrumental pieces, though the soloist’s ceaseless arpeggiating is sometimes a distraction. We’re told it’s authentic (the manuscript source suggests a violin concerto in the making) but something about its harmonic language doesn’t quite ring true, though that reaction might well be due to lack of familiarity.
Composer portrait of Jörg Widmann (b 1973 in Munich) with two major orchestral works bridged by Fünf Bruchstücke for clarinet and piano. The Messe was composed in 2006, Elegie in 2005 while the Bruchstücke are amongst Widmann’s earliest published pieces, composed in 1997. On the Bruchstücke he is joined by another great composer/performer, Heinz Holliger, heard here in a recording debut as pianist. Widmann’s astonishingly agile clarinet dominates the Elegie with a range of expression embracing trills, multiphonics and microtones. Christoph Poppen directs the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie with customary élan.
Silvestrov wrote the pieces recorded here, scored for piano solo, string orchestra, and piano and strings, between 1996 and 2005, and they are all representative of his late, meditative, song-like style. After an early career as an experimentalist, Silvestrov embraced the radical simplicity – a style of tonal, melodic, and rhythmic transparency – that has won him many admirers in the general public, but little recognition by the academic community. It would be easy to hear his music as derivative, given the limited tonal palette to which he restricts himself; his apparently naïve and artless approach, however, has an integrity and a genuinely lyrical impulse that make it hard to dismiss.
The four chamber works by Austrian Thomas Larcher recorded here show that's he's a composer to watch out for. His compositional voice is strikingly unencumbered by adherence to any orthodoxy, and his work is direct in its emotional and intellectual communication. My Illness Is the Medicine I Need, for soprano, violin, cello, and piano, is particularly effective; its aphoristic texts come from a Benetton "Colors" magazine that included photographs of psychiatric hospitals and quotations from their patients. Larcher's understated text setting allows the voices of the patients to be heard with unaffected bleakness and it is strongly moving. Even though it uses a contemporary harmonic language, the string quartet Ixxu (1998-2004) is old-fashioned in its emotional clarity. Its last movement, "ruhig," is genuinely peaceful and brings to mind the serenity of Arvo Pärt's Fratres. His 1990 quartet Cold Farmer is similarly direct and generous in inviting the listener in, and here again the slow movement is especially deeply felt and engaging.
Norwegian folk musician Sinikka Langeland, singer and player of the kantele (the Finnish table harp) is a distinctly non-traditional traditionalist, redefining "folk" in successive projects. 'Maria's Song' finds her in the company of two distinguished classical musicians - organist Kare Nordstoga and "giant of the Nordic viola" Lars Anders Tomter - and on a mission to restore Marian texts to sacred music, weaving folk melodies in between the timeless strains of J S Bach. Langeland made a lot of friends with her sparkling ECM debut Starflowers: "There are jewels everywhere on this arresting example of ego-free music-making. One of the albums of this or any other year" raved the Irish Times. Where Starflowers brought Langeland into the orbit of jazz improvisers, Maria's Song is a meeting and cross referencing of folk and 'classical' energies, and also a righting of historical 'injustice': Religious folk songs are amongst the most distinctive elements of the Norwegian folk tradition, yet the Virgin Mary rarely appears in them. Once a much-worshipped figure in the Far North she was, as Sinikka puts it, "reformed" away in 1537, so this album brings Maria back into the music. It was recorded in the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral of Trondheim, famous for its Baroque organ heard here.