Globokar began his musical
career as a jazz musician before formal studies in Paris
for composition and trombone, working eventually under
Luciano Berio’s guidance. Just before he began work on
the pieces recorded here, Globokar concluded a 19-year
stint as instructor at the School of Music in Florence.
He now resides in Paris.
This release is quite a wild
ride. The first — and largest — work presented here, The
Angel of History
, is to some extent an ekphrastic
work, based on the Paul Klee painting titled Angelus
It is also, as the composer states, “a
sound fresco of the time I am living in.” Considering
the range of years in which the piece was composed, one
can well imagine the overall tone of the piece. This
is a large-scale, ambitious work, for two ensembles of
considerable force, each with a conductor. In addition,
the score calls for pre-recorded tape feeds of folk music,
live “electronic alienation” of the second orchestra,
and two samplers. The first half-hour long section depicts
a musical descent into a sort of police state, with the
first orchestra, as the composer mentions, implying “a
democratic system gradually sinking into totalitarianism”.
The second orchestra, with snippets of folk music from
the former Yugoslavian regions on pre-recorded tape,
portrays “a specific power shaken by nationalist tendencies”.
Heavy stuff, indeed.
Most chilling is the second
part of the piece, intended to portray “a police state
ending in anarchy”. The movement begins with faint shufflings
and ghostly harmonics on strings. It crackles with fear
and paranoia, crashes, footfalls in darkness, and an
eerie aftermath, with the music of the orchestra dissolving
in static, as if from a public-address system left on,
with no-one left to man the microphone or to hear the
The final movement, entitled Hoffnung
shows the conflict still unresolved, with a gradual awakening
from the rain-like static, but with, as the composer
mentions, “positive and negative” aspects of the ensembles
in constant superimposition. The movement holds out,
as the title suggests, the possibility that the positive
might win out, at least temporarily.
So how on earth does this
epic work sound?
As one can imagine, any work
that takes on such a context certainly demands a great
deal from the performers and their audience. At times,
the flirtations of the piece with all-out chaos remind
this reviewer of George Antheil’s wild Ballet Mécanique
its original form, with a barrage of player-pianos, sirens,
airplane propeller and piles of percussive hardware.
The underlying emotion here is far darker, however, with
marching troops and all-out wars, surmounted fleetingly
by the folk music of one particular region over another.
The second work here presented, Les
(The Hostages), sets an aural landscape,
with distant horns, guard-dogs barking, animal noises,
and almost subliminal hints at Beethoven. The pairing
of this harrowing piece with Der Engel der Geschichte
make sense in that they both draw from the same difficult
space, even borrow snippets of the same folk recordings. Les
moves occasionally a bit too close to its
material, calling for groans and vocal oof
interjections toward the middle of the work. Les
is at its most interesting when it focuses
relentlessly on a musical
portrayal of the atrocities,
where it breaks off and allows for real tension to
develop, as it does in the onset of the second half
of the work. The same high demand is made upon orchestra
and listener, which for many will make this release
a very arduous two hours of listening indeed.
Considering the first work’s
massive orchestral forces and electronic interventions,
it makes sense that this would be released as an SACD,
which provides the necessary definition, not only giving
a better sense of the two groups, but also placing the
listener in the centre of the maelstrom.
This is not, at least for
this reviewer, something to listen to every day, but
it is an intriguing — and occasionally quite harrowing — release
in Col Legno’s groundbreaking series of contemporary
see also review by Dominy Clements