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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund) http://www.musikszene-schweiz.ch http://www.musiques-suisses.ch/

Jacques WILDBERGER (b. 1922)
Tempus cadendi, tempus sperandi (1998/9)a
Commiato (1997)b
An die Hoffnung (1978/9)c
Sylvia Nopper (soprano)c; Georg Martin Bode (narrator)c; SWR-Vokalensemble Stuttgarta; Amati Quartettb; Sinfonieorchester Baselac; Heinz Holligerac
Recorded: Schweizer Radio DRS2, Stadtcasino Basel, May 2002 (Tempus cadendi) and April 2003 (An die Hoffnung); and Studio Zürich, September 2002 (Commiato)
MGB CTS-M77 [54:58]

 

Even though I might assign it different weightings, it’s really always the same thing with me: The struggle for the possibility of Hope. These words by Jacques Wildberger printed in the insert notes accompanying this release provide a clear clue to the emotional content of the three pieces recorded here. ‘Hope’ is actually mentioned in the titles of the two vocal works : Tempus cadendi, tempus sperandi of 1999 and of the somewhat earlier An die Hoffnung of 1979. Moreover, both pieces provide for an interesting opportunity to compare the composer’s approach to the texts, since it may be said that Tempus cadendi, tempus sperandi does, as it were, re-visits the texts set in the earlier work. Both works open with a setting of Hölderlin’s Hyperions Schicksalslied and end with a setting of Erich Fried’s poem Hölderlin an Sinclair that ends with the words Das letzte aber ist Leben. The main formal difference concerns the central section of each piece. In the earlier work, the speaker bluntly narrates historical facts about the Holocaust while the soprano sings a song from the Cracow Ghetto, Stejtellied, whereas the central section of the later work consists in two settings of poems by Paul Celan (Tenebrae, which Birtwistle also set in his Pulse Shadows, and Es war Erde in ihnen) both overtly related to the Holocaust. Moreover, at the end of the Hölderlin setting in Tempus cadendi, tempus sperandi, Wildberger also quotes the Stejtellied. So, in spite of the obvious differences between them, these two pieces are rather intricately correlated. The main (at least, the most immediately striking) difference between the two works is the actual musical setting and the techniques used by the composer. To a certain extent, the earlier work, for soprano, narrator and large orchestra, is more straightforward, which does not mean that it is an easy work. What is meant, is that the idiom is more overtly expressionist, closer to Berg and Schönberg, and even including a brief musical collage in the course of the central section when the narrator’s comments are echoed by ironic quotes from several Romantic works, such as Liszt’s The Preludes, Wagner’s Meistersinger overture and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. An die Hoffnung, however, is – needless to say – a deeply serious, often moving piece of great expressive strength that communicates directly. On the other hand, Tempus cadendi, tempus sperandi (the title actually echoes Dallapiccola’s Tempus destruendi, tempus aedificandi of 1970/1), scored for chorus, percussion and keyboards, is cast in a somewhat more modern idiom including the use of speaking chorus in the second Celan setting Es war Erde in ihnen. (In this respect, it may be useful to remember that Wildberger studied with Wladimir Vogel, who made the use of Sprechchor entirely his own.) As a whole, the piece is somewhat more intractable than its predecessor, but nevertheless is also quite powerfully impressive in its own terms. Both pieces thus are obviously about Hope in spite of political, social or racial upheavals, but it is hard-won, fragile Hope that anything can ruthlessly shatter.

Commiato for string quartet (the title again alludes to Dallapiccola’s last completed work) was partly composed under deeply personal circumstances. The work was written in memory of the composer’s goddaughter whose tragic and untimely death deeply affected him. This poignant elegy opens with indeterminate sounds, sometimes verging on noise, creating some expectant mood. A long-held note progressively breaks through this cluster-like aggregate suggesting an attempt at putting the music in perspective, and the music then unfolds as a sorrowful, at times angry elegy which briefly quotes from Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder. In the composer’s own words, For me, it is just not possible to compose something comforting for my goddaughter who died tragically. That would be cheap. But I have to stand firm... I protest against such fate, and shall not be weakened. True to say, there is nothing cheap about this deeply felt piece of music.

Wildberger’s music may not be easy, but it speaks directly in powerful terms regardless of its technical complexity. It may not yield all its secrets easily, but it vastly repays repeated hearings, especially when it is served – as it is here – by well prepared and committed readings. Recommended.

Hubert Culot



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