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Aribert REIMANN (b.1936)
Zyklus (1971) [23:35]
Kumi Ori (1999) [22:18]
Die Pole sind in uns (1995) [9:39]
Yaron Windmüller (baritone)
Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra/Günther Herbig
Axel Bauni (piano, Die Pole sind in uns)
rec. Musikstudio I, Funkhaus Halberg, Saarbrücken, 28 March, 11 May, 19 June 2004.
NAXOS 8.570199 [55:33]

Berlin-born Aribert Reimann is known not only as a composer, but also as an eminent accompanist to singers such as Brigitte Fassbaender and Ernst Haefliger, but most famously and devotedly to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, for whom he wrote a sequence of song cycles including Zyklus, and the monumental role of Lear in his 1978 opera.
Reimann’s work has become something of a staple in terms of darkly serious teutonic modernism, and the works on this disc do nothing to dispel this reputation. Zyklus is, as its title suggests, a cycle which uses texts from the collection of poems Atemwende, by Paul Celan. Kumi Ori was given its first performance by the singer on this recording, and uses Paul Celan texts alongside verses from Psalms 74, 79 and 122. Die Pole sind in uns is for piano and baritone, and is also a Celan poem. These texts are included in the booklet, and the choices made by the composer are a stark indicator of the nature of much of the music.
The vocal lines in the works with orchestral accompaniment are characterised by an often angular atonality, and while the intervals in Die Pole sind in uns are closer, you’d be hard put to call them lyrically expressive. Reimann is clearly at home with vocal treatments however, and the power of his word settings springs from an almost recitative-like clarity. The most significant impression these pieces left with me was Reimann’s imaginative use of colour and sonority from both the orchestra and the piano. There are some remarkable effects, most especially in Zyklus, where chamber music interludes are contrasted with vastly glowering cluster chords pointing to unspeakable depths. The tempi are more often than not slow, and even when there is a greater concentration of activity the sensation is of tidal rising and falling rather than helter-skelter impetus. The heaving brass is particularly strong in the third song in Zyklus, “…how far I have pushed you into the depths, where/my most bitterly heartfelt dream/sleeps with you, on the bed/of my irredeemable name.” The following Du darfst mich getrost mit Schnee bewirten is a masterpiece of grim suppression.
With nearly thirty years between them, you might expect considerable differences between Zyklus and Kumi Ori, but if you are not following the track numbers you might not notice when the one ends and the other begins. ‘Kumi Ori’ are the words with which the poem Du sei wie du, immer ends, the Hebrew words of Isaiah, which mean ‘arise and shine’. The composer’s own comment is that “this enlightenment was the hope for the next millennium: that what had happened in the past century would never happen again.”
Die Pole sind in uns uses plucked, damped and struck strings as well as conventionally played notes and chords, continuing the interest in different colour and texture in Reimann’s music. The bell-like harmonics towards the end are particularly striking. The text is delivered with elongated restraint, but with more word painting and elaboration than in many of the orchestral works. The austerity of this last work punctuates the mood of the others, and furthers the darkly serious expressive voice and message of the composer.
The content of this disc might be a hard pill to swallow, but there is no doubting the strength of purpose with which Aribert Reimann seeks to express the depth and meaning of Paul Celan’s texts. For an honest emotional response I played it to my daughter of 5, who screwed up her eyes, stuck her tongue out and cried “it makes me sad!” With excellent recording and performance values, this is however another Naxos stopper in the gap of interesting and under-represented repertoire, and as such is a welcome addition to the catalogue. If you feel your collection lacks intellectual weight and you long for an antidote to superficial hedonistic thrills, then this is certainly worth a try.
Dominy Clements     


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