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Seen & Heard
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Luigi NONO (1924-1990)
Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima (1980) [38:08]
Quartet: Walter Levin (violin); Henry Meyer (violin);
(viola (alto); Lee Fiser (cello). DDD
415 513-1 [38:08]
music won’t immediately appeal to everyone; but, approached
with an open mind, it really ought to inspire and please.
Nono’s lovely Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima is
essentially highly condensed studied, almost ‘minimalist’ -
in the sense of being very… fragmented, quiet, pared down
- sound painting for strings. It’s not the world of Ligeti’s Atmosphères,
nor of some of Schoenberg’s desperate string compositions
although it has a quiet reserve in common with each. It’s
more spare than the first and marginally less romantic
than anything by Schoenberg or Webern. But the impact of Fragmente – Stille,
An Diotima in this splendid performance by the LaSalle
Quartet will be every bit as great.
a single work commissioned for those players at the 1983
Bonn Beethoven Festival. It is unique in a number of ways:
technically, it must be chamber music, but it’s very far
from concerning itself with the sonorities and consonant
interplay of four stringed instruments. Rather, the quartet
plays at times almost as a single instrument, laying sounds
on top of one another in Klangfarbenmelodie fashion.
What’s more, silence is as important an entity as sound.
These facets of the composition alone – yet used unhistrionically
in this combination - surely explain what was part of Nono’s
revulsion at the ordered and tidy values of the bourgeoisie.
How easy for composer and/or player to have fallen into
gratuitous, nihilistic effects to convey departure from
norms: not a bit of it here. The conception and execution
are unself-conscious and very low key. After all, it was
Nono’s intention with this piece to "externalize
as fully as possible that which has been internalised … that
is what matters today". Success all round: the playing
achieves such cerebral goals with great musicality so don’t
hesitate to buy this recording – although less than 40
minutes’ worth of music, the impact on your mental energy
is much greater.
conceptual, Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima is really
closer to the abstract embodiment of ideas – but in neither
a conventionally figurative way or even by distilling an idée
fixe. Fragments of Hölderlin are written on the score
and the players are instructed to sing them inwardly – they
must never be spoken aloud. Nor are the poet’s words to
be taken – according to Nono - as indicating any kind of
programme. The autonomy - from narrative and verbalisation
- is intended to help the players to arrive at what Hölderlin
called a ‘delicate harmony of the inner life’. Hölderlin’s
poem, Diotima, (Socrates' teacher) is concerned
with time. This piece is as much about the influences of
the past - there are fragments, quotations of musical themes
by Ockeghem, Beethoven and Verdi here - on an understanding
of our place in the present. Presumably it’s those ideas
too on which the players dwell as they let Hölderlin’s
fragments work on them.
it’s crucial that the performers – and there are two other
recordings in the current catalogue: The Ardittis on Naïve (782172)
and a performance orchestrated by Maderna as part of a
compilation on Col Legno (20505) -
understand and feel this set of correspondences and are
able to translate them into their playing. The LaSalle
very clearly does. Their playing is both raw and exposed
- they’re closely miked - almost playfully lyrical without
being maudlin and as tightly directed towards the sound
as towards any ‘philosophy’, which is what Nono wanted.
is hardly music to be listened to casually - which serious
music is, though! - although you may be surprised at how
easily and quickly you can become familiar with it.
As with all these Arkiv CDs you will receive a boxed, record
company-authorised CD-R at a low price, a reproduction
of the original cover and back of booklet. The original
liner-notes are not included. But this is twentieth century
music of distinction played by eminently capable practitioners
and of interest and value in all respects.
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