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Claus OGERMANN (b.1930)
Piano Concerto (1993) [19.03]
Concerto For Orchestra (1991) [44.59]
Clauss Ogermann (piano)
National Philharmonic Orchestra/Claus Ogermann
Rec - details not given
DECCA 013949-2 [64.03]


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Contemporary classical music has been in retreat in the US for decades. With the exception of the iconoclast Elliot Carter, there seems to be very little of any complexity emerging from contemporary American composers. This is not to say that there is nothing good coming from the US the expressionist John Adams, the quirky Michael Daugherty and the pioneering Steve Reich are producing worthwhile music. The problem appears to be the wash of less talented composers who are gaining prominence because they can be relied upon not to frighten the horses. The lack of variety impoverishes the scene, and the value cannot be replaced by frankly boring composers like Tobias Picker, Michael Torke, or on the evidence of this disc, Claus Ogermann.

Ogermann is German by birth and education, but has been based in the States for over 40 years, and has built his career there as a jazz composer, performer and arranger. This disc seems very much a promotional tool to make that career more "serious". The booklet contains several pictures of Ogermann posing thoughtfully and some sycophantic notes attempting to build his stature into that of a 'Great Composer'. Unfortunately it is not a claim that can be justified by the works here or the performances.

The orchestral playing is inauspicious throughout. The National Philharmonic is, I suspect, a session orchestra cobbled together for the recording. The standard is middling the string tone is thin, especially in slow passages and I suspect that some serious knob twiddling has been done to fill out the sound. The conducting, by Ogermann himself, does not seem to provide any direction or focus any musical thoughts.

As regards the works themselves, the piano concerto is much the finer of the two works on this disc. It is in a serialist, Reich-ish vein, and has a sparkling opening and the irregular length of the repeated phrase is moderately interesting. The concerto never really lets rip, although it is pleasant enough and the performance by Ogermann is clear and sprightly.

The Concerto for Orchestra is another matter altogether. Almost supernaturally boring, it is a pretentious work that meanders aimlessly, generating no harmonic tension, without a single decent landmark to enliven the discourse. I can, unfortunately, think of no redeeming features that would justify recording it and cannot recommend it.

Aidan Twomey

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