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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Giselher KLEBE (b. 1925)
Poèma drammatico Op.130 (1999)a
Soggetto cavato primo Op.122 (1996)b
Soggetto cavato secondo Op.129 (1998)b
Widmungen Op.115 (1970/88)c
Zornige Lieder ohne Worte Op.118 (1994)d
Meine Enkelkinder und ich Op.140 (2002)e
Thema und 39 Variationen Op.142 (2003)f
Silke-Thora Matthies (piano)abd; Christian Köhn (piano)abcef;
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburga/Peter Ruzickaa
Recorded: Konzerthaus Freiburg, April 2002 (Poèma) and Rudolf-Oetker-Halle, Bielefeld, September 2003
MARCO POLO 8.225290 [75:00]

 

This release is the second volume devoted to Klebe’s piano music. It includes works written over the last thirty years either for solo piano or for piano duet. There is also a fairly recent work for two pianos and orchestra. It provides a fairly comprehensive survey of Klebe’s recent output for piano(s). Volume 1, with the same performers is available on MARCO POLO 8.223172 which includes earlier as well as more recent pieces either for piano, piano duet or two pianos.

Klebe, who studied with Boris Blacher, scored his first successes with works such as his brilliant Die Zwitschermaschine Op.7 (1950), still one of his most imaginative works so far, inspired by Klee’s eponymous painting (The Twittering Machine). That’s the same canvas that inspired one of Maxwell Davies’ beautiful Five Klee Pictures (1959, revised 1976). A new recording of Klebe’s colourful score is long overdue. (A recording of it was available many years ago in a boxed set released by the Deutscher Musikrat on Harmonia Mundi DMR 1004-6, nla.) Prominent in his large output are his operas (he composed ten of them between 1957 and 1977), which are still rarely heard, if at all, outside Germany. No wonder that he decided to pay tribute to Verdi in his Poèma drammatico Op.130 completed in 1999. In this fairly substantial piece, he weaves quotes from Verdi’s operas into his own, mostly dodecaphonic sound world. As a whole this work does not completely convince, at least as far as the present writer is concerned. The opening section, dark and ominous, underpinned by menacing timpani, promises much. However the slower section meanders aimlessly. This is in spite of the insistent use of a recurrent motif heard earlier in the work and often restated afterwards in an attempt to bring some formal coherence. The final section, for all its heroic gesturing, seems contrived. In short, a fairly impressive work, but a flawed one.

The other pieces fare much better, probably because they set out to achieve less epic or monumental results. The pieces for piano duet (Sogetto cavato primo Op.122 and Soggetto cavato secondo Op.129) as well as Widmungen Op.115 for solo piano are tributes to artists and friends close to the composer. The five pieces, grouped under the title Widmungen ("Dedications"), were written on various occasions from 1970 to 1988.

The titles of the five pieces that make-up the Zornige Lieder ohne Worte Op.118 ("Angry Songs without Words") are clear enough (Anger, Loneliness, Sorrow, Revolt and Secret Message). The music speaks for itself evoking these various moods in turn. Incidentally, the last piece of this suite, dedicated to the writer Peter Härtling, is a piano arrangement of a song setting words by Härtling.

As may be expected, Meine Enkelkinder und ich Op.140 ("My Grandchildren and I") is lighter in mood and generally less demanding than most of the other works.

Thema und 39 Variationen Op.142, the most recent piece, dedicated to Christian Köhn on his 40th birthday, is – in spite of its brevity – a substantial work. It demonstrates Klebe’s endless and undiminished imagination in handling his material.

Klebe’s early works were often more overtly dodecaphonic. His style became more mellow with the passing years, probably as the result of writing operas. Klebe’s style, however, was never strictly dodecaphonic or serial, and rhythm has always been very important, something he might have learned from studying with Blacher. So, on the whole, his musical style changed little over these years, although the composer managed to bring much variety into the proceedings.

Dedicated performances by musicians who obviously believe in the music. My reservations concerning Poèma drammatico have nothing to do with the performance as such.

This disc is recommended for it sheds some interesting light on a little-known composer whose best music deserves to be heard ... and some of these works are really fine. I hope now that someone will record his orchestral music soon.

Hubert Culot



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