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Alexander BLECHINGER (b. 1956)
Schlagzeugkonzert Op. 91 (Percussion Concerto) *
Wiener Violinsonate (1989)¹
Wiener Sextett ²
Wiener Klavierquartett (1988) ³
Georges Tchernenko, percussion *
Kiev Camerata *
Paul Polivnick, conductor *
Michael Grube, violin ¹
Ergican Saydam, piano¹
Birgit Walk, violin ²
Wolfgang Leitner, violin ²
Yoko Nishio, clarinet ²
Kanako Todo, bassoon ²
Hermann Ebner, horn ²
Viktor Vörös, double bass ²
Jess-Stradivari Quartett ³
Recorded live in the Bösendorfersaal, Vienna, Austria, September 14th 2000 *¹², and in the Brahms Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, September 27th 1988.
ANTES EDITION BM CD 31.9172 [72.50]


Alexander Blechinger is a contemporary Viennese composer whose music owes virtually nothing to any of the styles to which that city is stereotypically linked, be it Straussian waltzes or Schoenbergian dodecaphony. This is a highly enjoyable and entertaining disc despite the rather roughly recorded live sound, at least on some pieces. In the latter respect the opening Percussion Concerto comes off best, with a stunning display from both soloist and orchestra. It has five movements and each uses the theme of an old Austrian song/hymn St. Leopold, which bears a striking resemblance to the tune usually used for "All Glory Laud and Honour". The variations cover quite a range, from the motorik rhythms of the opening Allegro marziale to the pentatonic dance band (!) of the third movement - think The Chairman Dances but only more so. There are also more meditative sections, the Andante atmosferico develops into a really beautiful hunting horn heralded Alpine reverie, while the Andantino sentimentale favours chamber-like textures in its nostalgic soundtrack-like tread. The piece closes with an upbeat synthesis of the preceding movement themes and demonstrate, as indeed the piece as a whole does, Blechinger's ability to fuse influences from folk, jazz, popular and minimalist sources to highly listenable effect. although ostensibly a concerto, the orchestral writing is also virtuosic and the soloist's role is more of an obligato. Easy listening, in some ways, but still beautifully crafted.

The Viennese Violin Sonata is apparently inspired by the waltz and a meditation on that dance's relevance, past and present, to its home city. The live performance is not the most together one imaginable but the spirit of the music shines through - I'd like to hear a studio recording, although it must be admitted that the piece is probably overlong. The Rondo andante starts off like Dvořįk or the mildest Janįček before developing into a more impressionistic direction with pentatonic figurations. Towards the end of this first movement the music temporarily becomes more agitated and starts to resemble Jewish/Gypsy/East European music which I suppose is not necessarily out of context from what has gone before, and highlights the role of Vienna and Austria as a meeting place for a diverse range of cultures, not just the repository of a central European tradition. The almost as long Allegro con Valzer is a more animated movement but rather more conventional and western sounding, although the final flourishes are quite folksy. So overall a flawed but interesting piece of music and the same can be said about the performance, neither ever less than entertaining.

The Viennese Sextet, like the Percussion Concerto, but in even lighter vein, takes traditional Viennese themes and blends them with jazz and blues style themes to create a totally unpretentious and often humorous pot-pourri. It might be more worth watching the New Year's Day concert if this sort of thing were included amongst the war-horses. Blechinger certainly believes in being able to laugh at himself and his fellow Viennese, naming the final Rondo after a Spanish leftover dish (Olla podrida), the music sounding like a cross between Piazzolla and Poulenc - great fun!

The disc ends with the Piano Quartet which begins in an extremely jazzy and bluesy way but the second movement is much more lyrical, by turns gentle and passionate. The final movement is much more classical but still underpinned by jazz rhythms and ends exuberantly, the audience's appreciation much in evidence at the end of the tape.

Blechinger's music makes no pretence towards being great art or highly significant in the scheme of things but shows a humour, humility and joie de vivre all too sadly absent in many contemporary compositions. You may hate this disc, you may love it, if you like say Gottschalk or Malcolm Arnold you will definitely see the point of it. I enjoyed it, it won't be in my best of 2003 but it certainly wouldn't be in my worst either.

Neil Horner


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