When a new CD plops
onto the doormat and I discover it to
be of music by a composer completely
new to me all I can hope for initially
is that the music will make some sense
and that I might like what I hear. Only
occasionally am I completely bowled
over from bar one. But with Ulrich Leyendecker
that is exactly what has happened. Immediately
the 3rd Symphony began I
felt an affinity with the sheer sound
the composer conjured from the orchestra
and as I learned more I also felt an
affinity with the form, structure and
aims. Unusual and rather special. Let
me share it further.
This Symphony, recorded
the day after its first performance,
opens with a widely spaced chord especially
in the strings. This sets up one particular
texture that conveys a great sense of
open spaces and a huge natural landscape.
The violin glissandi using quarter-tones
almost transport you into outer space,
anyway you are certainly not earthbound.
The opening Largo continues to be literally
‘out of this world’ and is mostly atonal
but approachable. The CD insert claims
that the composer is interested in ‘sonic
architecture’ yet ‘manages to communicate
directly with its audience’. I would
take issue with one aspect of Cris Posslac’s
otherwise excellent and detailed booklet
notes. They tell us that Leyendecker
has rejected the avant-garde in favor
of "finding a new certainty from
the spirit perceived in past traditions".
Quite right too BUT we must not deny
that this music, especially the concerto,
is not easy listening. This music is
large-scale, atonal and demanding in
its need for the listener to follow
the argument. It is also colourful and,
especially important, its form and sense
of direction of the music are clear.
This is where the composer’s excellent
programme notes which are quoted in
the booklet are very handy. Anyone can
understand what his aims are and how
he has set about putting the works together.
Just a sentence like "The second
movement (of the 3rd Symphony)
has quickly scurrying figures from the
various levels of sound. To these are
added rhythmically and especially sharply-pointed
shapes that displace the arrangement
of notes from the start in a constant
dynamic movement," is helpful.
When you hear the music it all fits
Of the Concerto the
composer tells us "Constant changes
in the relationship between solo and
orchestra and increasingly disparate
instrumentation determine still more
strongly the working out in the middle
section of the first movement".
We should not deny that this work is
powerful and gripping. It demands your
attention and will occasionally bowl
you over. You embark on a varied and
exciting musical journey once it starts.
First there is a scurrying idea which
made me immediately think of a Hardanger
fiddler. Added to it are tiny points
of colour which increase until suddenly
at 1’22" the pulse slackens to
expose a fragile but still pointillist
world. This also grows in intensity,
meanwhile the violinist’s virtuosity
increases. After a further minute even
this idea is halted as the soloist weaves
a melancholy line over curious forest
noises. And so it goes on fascinating
the ear, new tempi, new textures, but
all related. This section too builds
to a frantic and totally dissonant climax.
And incidentally, just
to surprise you, the third movement
is a set of nine variations on a song
which the composer had written a few
years ago as part of his ‘Hebrew Ballads’.
Sometimes these pieces
reminded me of James Dillon; sometimes
of Hans Werner Henze. But these analogies
are stupid because frankly this music
is pan-European and yet totally individual.
I find it curious that
Naxos have taken such a long time to
issue this disc, and as it lasts for
less than an hour I wondered if the
intention was to put another work onto
it. As this hasn’t come to fruition
perhaps they can be persuaded to allow
us to hear more of Leyendecker’s work
in the future.
The CD has excellent
notes on the music, the performers and
on the composer. Although I have not
dwelt on his biography I hope dear reader
that you will not mind. I feel that
first one should take in the music and
then discover that he was a pupil of
Inigo Schmitt from 1962-5 (who he?
I hear you say). Later in the 1970s
he studied with Rudlof Petzold - any
the wiser? Probably not. Well, look
him up on the internet ... there is
a good website. More importantly listen
to this disc. I hope that it fascinates
you as much as it has me.