Konrad Boehmer may be better known as the composer
of many electronic and electro-acoustic pieces than for works for traditional
instruments. The present release spans some forty years of composing
activity since the earliest work here (Klangstück I)
was written in 1959 and the most recent (Orpheus Unplugged)
was completed in 2000.
The earlier works (Klangstück I
and Potential, respectively from 1959 and 1961) obviously
belong to the Darmstadt type of music written in the early 1960s; and
– remarkably enough – are the ones that come off best here. Potential
was originally composed as an "open form" type of work in
which several parameters were chosen and arranged by the performer.
Later, though, the composer made three fully notated versions from which
the performer may choose. So, here we have the second and the third
I do not know exactly what to do with Nordisches
Liedchen (1975) which sounds curiously unfocused and rather
pastiche-like. Maybe I missed some irony in the music. Neither am I
particularly happy with Kinderlied zu Dresden (1990) in
which the composer de-composed both text and music of a song by Schumann
(Die wandelnde Glocke Op.79 No.18) and in which the pianist
has to vocalise the de-constructed text in a rather histrionic manner.
The piece may also have some political message which, I am afraid, completely
Tango deslavado y moroso (1984) fares
somewhat better though it also has its share of violence and dissonance,
and – maybe – of some black humour.
In Illo Tempore written in 1979 for
Geoffrey Madge is by far the longest and most complex piece here. It
is said to retrace the whole history of keyboard playing (from organum
to Romantic piano playing, and beyond) though I must again confess that
I missed the point. Rather I found this long piece a terrific display
of virtuoso piano playing, quite impressive in its own right and superficially
akin to Finnissy’s big piano cycles. Technically demanding and physically
exacting for the pianist and the listener as well.
The most recent Orpheus Unplugged for
piano and CD was completed over the period 1999-2000, and is dedicated
to Nicolas Hodges who gave the first performance. The CD has the poet
Albert Ostermaier reading three poems especially written for this work
as well as a whole gamut of sounds recorded in different places and
at different times by Boehmer. Orpheus’ myth revisited, as it were,
although I do not see any connection between the words, the recorded
sounds and the hyperactive piano part.
Nicolas Hodges is an excellent pianist restlessly championing
20th Century music. This release is a formidable tribute
to his remarkable technique and there is no denying the conviction with
which he plays such difficult, often over-busy music. No mean feat in
itself, but I must admit that I did not warm much to this somewhat intractable