Am Abend tönen dis herbstlichen Wälder (an
Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen
and various soloists conducted by Sebastian Gottschick
(recorded 5 April & 22-24 October 1999 and 5 & 23 May
Andante. Konzertstuck fur Orgel. Sieben Lieder. Grodek. Veni creator spiritus.
4 Lieder fur Dulcinea. Capriccio.
My heart sank as I attempted to hack my way through the earnest, densely-argued
introduction to this recording. A statement of the obvious - that composers
no longer subscribe to a generally-agreed musical language but select from
and/or add to a bewildering proliferation of styles - is couched in words
of such pretentious obfuscation (vintage Pseuds' Corner stuff) that I dreaded
to think what the music itself would be like.
We eventually come to the writer's central point - that Matthias Ronnefeld
(1959-1986) ' . . . succeeded not only in finding a path, but also in developing
his own clear voice in the labyrinthine soundscape.' Born into an Austrian
musical family, Ronnefeld began composing at the age of six. As he grew up
his musical thinking was most influenced by Berg and Schönberg, Zimmermann
and Ligeti. His output was not large and consists almost entirely of miniatures
for small forces, a representative sample of which fills this disc.
This is sparse, tough music (though not without some lyrical touches), but
having attended many a Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival recital,
I can't say I found it particularly distinctive. The three song cycles Grodek,
Four Songs to Dulcinea and Seven Songs after the Song of Solomon - made the
standard outrageous avant-garde demands on the vocal soloists (brilliantly
and fearlessly met by Daniela Bechly (soprano) and Randi Stene (mezzo-soprano)).
These wistful, sometimes explosive, but always enigmatic songs are remarkable
perhaps for their terseness (some of less than a minute's duration). Except
that its seven sections correspond to the seven verses of the hymn Veni,
Creator Spiritus (for solo piano) I failed to see any connection between
music and text.
In fact the programme-booklet, for all its length, has too little to say
about the individual pieces. The Konzertstück for Organ, at over 12
minutes the longest work, is also perhaps the most accessible, particularly
its rugged opening movement, though the monochrome registration of its static
central section quickly palls.
The works for chamber ensemble - Capriccio and Andante for Viola and Five
Instruments display assured handling of many of the tricks of the avant-garde
It would be idle to pretend that I enjoyed this disc, but I am happy to report
that it is splendidly performed and recorded.