Sometimes music is so theatrical that it needs no stage or actors to enlighten its listeners. If such music comprised a genre in and of itself, composer Heiner Goebbels would be one of its most idiosyncratic masters. Along with Michael Mantler, Goebbels represents a theatrical strand in the ECM universe that challenges the reviewer attempting to describe it, yet which is perfectly clear once it reaches the ears. My first encounter came through Surrogate Cities, a dazzling piece of music theatre that remains the yardstick by which I’ve measured all Goebbels experiences since. That being said, the more I hear, the more I recognize the futility of such comparison, for in his decidedly textual sound there is equal room for any and all sentiments to frolic, dance, and weep.
This is an unusual disc from Norwegian label, Lawo Classics: Perfect Strangers. Coupling the works of Heiner Goebbels and Frank Zappa, and performed by The Norwegian Radio Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Søndergård, it is recorded onto SACD in surround sound. Frank Zappa’s music crosses all boundaries, with fans in all musical camps. The recordings of his own band are legendary, but with the release of The Yellow Shark featuring Ensemble Modern, Zappa’s music became standard repertoire for symphony orchestras — or at least those that dare to accept the challenge! This is intense and demanding music, but who is better equipped for the task than the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, celebrated for the diversity of its repertoire and collaborations?
It's a seductive, sometimes shocking and viscerally exciting musical experience; the premier recording of an unconventional opera that made a major impact at its premiere in Geneva in 2002. Landschaft mit entfernten Verwandten translates as 'Landscape with distant relatives', and trying to describe it is a bit of a nightmare…not least because Goebbels himself doesn't exactly revel in unpicking his music in front of critics and audiences. "What drives the attention of an audience is the unforeseeable, and the secrets and mystery of a performance".