The early opera of Antonín Dvorák recorded here definitely falls into the historical oddity category. It's in German, not Czech, set to a libretto by a poet long dead by 1870, when the work was composed, and it is unknown why Dvorák would have undertaken such a sizable project. The subject is a British king, Alfred the Great, who also inspired the opera by Thomas Arne that contains Rule, Brittania, and even shows up in the Vikings television miniseries.
Christiane Oelze is one of the leading German sopranos to have emerged in the latter decades of the 20th century. Her repertory includes a broad range of works in the operatic, concert, and lieder realms by composers, including J.S. Bach, Mozart, Richard Strauss, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, and Schoenberg. She possesses a bright, somewhat delicate voice whose graceful quality makes her style both uniquely appealing and easily recognizable.
Known for his scientific explorations of timbre and his innovative syntheses of acoustic and electronic techniques, Tristan Murail is regarded as a composer of the "spectral school." He accepts untempered sound as the basis for his expansive musical language, far removed from tonality, serialism, and aleatoric procedures. Gondwana was developed from electronic music concepts, and its expanding and contracting bands of complex sounds are analogous to those generated through a synthesizer. Shimmering clusters, washes of color, and massed, low sonorities evoke the slow shifting of continents. The Orchestre National de France, directed by Yves Prin, delivers this work with primordial grandeur and astonishing depth. Because of its smaller forces, Désintégrations is more focused and intense than Gondwana, though no less cosmic in its implications. The Ensemble de l'Itinéraire blends effectively with the electronic tape, so it is difficult to distinguish acoustic from synthetic sounds. Time and Again is a departure from the familiar practice of slowly unfolding processes, for its chopped-up material is jumbled, as if sequential events were reordered in a time machine.