> Konrad BOEHMER - The Piano Works [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Konrad BOEHMER (born 1941)
Potential II (1961)
Tango deslavado y moroso (1984)
Klangstück I (1959)
Nordisches Liedchen (1975)
Potential III (1961)
Kinderlied zu Dresden (1990)
In Illo Tempore (1979)
Orpheus Unplugged (1999/2000)
Nicolas Hodges (piano)
Recorded: Bloomline Coryphée, ’s Gravendeel, December 2000 and August 2001
BVHAAST CD 0901 [70:43]


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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 versions.

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 eluded me.

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 music.

Hubert Culot

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