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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Hans-Joachim HESPOS (b.1938)
Splash (1969)a
Duma (1980)b
Kitara (1971)c
Monske (1996)d
Leija (1992)e
Pico (1978)f
Čang (1976)g
-Z...( ) (1969)
L’Art pour l’Art (Astrid Schmeling, fluteb; Michael Schröder, guitarc; Stefan Schäfer, double bassa; Matthias Kaul, percussionadg; Eva Pressl, harpe; Martin Schmeding, recorderf)
Recorded: Sendesaal Radio Bremen, July 2001
CPO 999 890-2 [67:16]

 

Splash for double bass and percussion may be the most satisfying piece here and, no doubt, the most accessible for its jazzy influences, though it is far from simple, easy or straightforward. It consists of some showy passages interspersed either with rather long pauses or with nearly inaudible sections. As most other pieces in this selection, it often calls for unusual techniques with sounds sometimes verging on noise (somewhat alla Lachenmann). Duma for alto flute runs the whole gamut of modern flute playing, sometimes to the point of bluntly achieving mere clichés. It is far too long for its own good though there are some arresting moments of instrumental fancy. Both Kitara for Spanish guitar (sic) and Leija for harp are comparatively traditional (i.e. by Hespos’s standards) though they too have their share of hectic activity, sometimes of a percussive nature, alternating with almost inaudible moments. Both pieces, as well as most other for that matter, proceed in a somewhat clichéed stop-and-go pattern that does not seem to lead anywhere. Monske, subtitled Ritual for mobile timpani in C, is a five-minute display of unusual noises seemingly drawn from timpani, resulting in things sounding like rifle shots, skin scraping or someone drilling into concrete, etc. Quite intractable, as far as I am concerned, for you never really make-out which instrument might be playing. (I suppose that this piece is the one calling for ‘special effects’ handled by Charly Plinke, as mentioned in the back cover.) Needlessly ugly, I am afraid. Čang for cymbal (!) solo rather sounds as a piece for cymbalon. It again goes along plink-plonk amidst numerous pauses and eventually amounting to very little of any musical interest (sorry to repeat myself!). Pico for piccolo recorder, though shorter than Duma, is quite similar in outlook and actual sound world. The last piece –Z...( ) is also the most enigmatic of all. First, its title (although the titles of the other pieces do not tell you much about the piece or the music either). Second, its subtitle mentioning a pianist though there is no pianist in L’Art pour l’Art ensemble. Third, this is a rather longish piece of noise making (including players’ coughing!), probably with so-called special effects again, for the whole ensemble, i.e. as far as I can judge by what I hear.

Hespos’s music often sets out to explore the many possibilities of instrumental technique and often does so with some extra-musical, theatrical devices as is quite clear in all the solo pieces recorded here. It also makes generous use of many unusual playing techniques resulting in some highly idiosyncratic sound production. So, one’s reactions to this thought-provoking selection of solo pieces will much depends on one’s appreciation (or dislike) of any kind of musical theatre, and of the instrumental histrionics often associated with it. Music such as this is likely to fascinate or irritate. Hearing these carefully prepared and dedicated performances, one may conclude that these pieces must be fun to play. The question, however, is to know whether these pieces are musically satisfying or not. I cannot help but feel (and deplore) that much talent has been wasted for nothing here.

I am sorry not to be able to wax more enthusiastically about this superbly played and well produced disc; but I am convinced that some may find much to enjoy here.

Hubert Culot

 



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