Gasser lives in Kreuzlingen,
Swtzerland. He studied at Wintherthur
Conservatory, the flute being his principal
instrument. His composition tutor was
Klaus Huber at Freiburg in Breisgau.
He has been much associated with the
Zürich branch of the ISCM and with
the Artists' House, Boswil. His prize-winning
works have been performed at Donaueschingen,
Saarbrücken, Venice and Cassel.
The genesis of the
present major work lies in the regal
impression made on Gasser by the newly
renovated organ of the Church of St
Stephen. Gasser determined to write
something for the instrument and only
later decided to theme this around St
Stephen. The work is starkly specified.
The baritone, Gasser is at pains to
point out, is not St Stephen
but a commentator. The message has the
listener examining his identification
with the martyred Stephen as well as
his (and our) guilty association with
the crowd who helped stone him to death.
This is not a work
of garish colour but one of a sombre
Protestant intensity. Its heartland
ranges from whispered awe (1.30 tr.
3) to a slowly imploring spiritual agony.
The style is comparable with Franz Schmidt
but just a step further towards dissonance.
The organ part majors on the long-held
note. There are memorable features such
as tortured cry of the organ in Herr,
du hast mich hörend gemacht.
In the last of the eleven episodes (each
tracked separately) the crowd who stoned
Stephen are blinded by hate to his unaccusing
face shining like an angel's.
The words, which are
printed in full in German only, are
drawn from Acts, Matthew and Psalm 77.
There are notes in German, French and
English as well as a useful synopsis.
Gasser and Eva Tobler provide the notes.
Both organist and baritone
are admirable advocates for this 20th
(just) century Passion which is in some
ways a modern counterpart to Haydn's
Seven Last Words or to the more introspective
parts of Schmidt's Book of the Seven