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MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund)

Rudolf KELTERBORN (b. 1931)
Cello Concerto (1998/9)a
Namenlos (1995/6)b
Chamber Concerto for Clarinet and 14 Players (1999)c
Ivan Monighetti (cello)a; Kurt Widmer (baritone)b; Matthias Müller (clarinet)c; Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège et de la Communauté Françaisea; Sinfonieorchester Baselb; Ensemble Collegium Novum Zürichc; Jan Krenza, Howard Griffithsb, Jürg Wyttenbachc
Recorded: Schweizer Radio DRS2, Tonhalle Zürich, April 2000 (Cello Concerto); Stadtcasino Basel, May 1997 (Namenlos) and Tonhalle Zürich, June 2000 (Chamber Concerto)
MGB CD 6182 [69:09]

The three works in this composerís portrait were written in close succession to each other, from 1995 to 1999, and thus provide a fair assessment of the composerís recent output. The earliest work here is Namenlos for large orchestra and electronic sounds. It dates from 1996. This, as a whole, may best be described as a suite of six highly contrasted musical climates, in turn violent and softer, energetic and meditative, static and restless. There are many arresting moments in this endlessly inventive work, such as the first section (one of the longest) in which the nervous orchestral music rushes headlong into what Thomas Meyer aptly describes as a wall of electronic sounds. The final section also calls for a baritone who softly sings some lines from Petrarchís Sonnet 164 ending with the words Vegghio, penso, ardo... (I wake and think, and I glow...) which actually summarise the emotional content of the work. The electronically produced sounds (either ring-modulated live sounds or computer-modified instrumental sounds) do not compete with the orchestra, but rather widen its expressive palette. The electronic part has been precisely worked out by the composer and Wolfgang Heiniger, and the result is quite remarkable and very effective. Few composers actually achieve such musically satisfying blending of live and electronic sounds. I think of Jonathan Harvey and York Höller. Kelterborn is obviously one such composer. In spite of its technical complexity, Namenlos possesses an extraordinary expressive strength that holds you from first to last. No easy stuff, but a truly gripping piece of music.

The Cello Concerto is a substantial work in one movement, travelling through a wide range of moods and emotions, a sort of long rhapsody tightly knit by the recurring use of basic germ cells. The difficult and technically demanding solo part is present throughout and is the red thread running throughout the whole piece. It is supported by a richly varied, rarely massive, orchestral fabric. The orchestra is infrequently used to the full, and is often split into smaller, chamber-like groups, which considerably enhances the variety of the orchestral commentary. This is a powerfully impressive, richly expressive work, and one of the finest cello concertos of the 20th century next to those of Dutilleux, Leighton, Lutosławski and Bernard Stevens. A splendid performance is given by Ivan Monighetti superbly supported by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Ličge conducted by Jan Krenz. This is actually the live recording of the world premiere on 3rd April 2000 in Zürich.

By comparison, the Kammerkonzert for clarinet and 14 players is somewhat simpler than either of the other works here, although to describe it as easy-going would be rather misleading. It is in two clearly characterised movements, Agitato and Grave, the music of which speaks for itself, although things are not always as simple as that. The first movement has some contrasting material whereas the second has its share of energy and violence. The second movement is scored for bass clarinet and ensemble, best suited to the predominantly darker mood of much of the music.

Thus, three substantial works, all well served by carefully prepared and committed readings, in a very fine recorded sound. You hardly notice that these recordings have been made live.

Rudolf Kelterborn is one of the most distinguished Swiss composers of his generation, and one who has made quite a name outside his homeland. For all its complexity and often uncompromising character, his music is gripping, powerfully expressive and utterly serious and sincere.

This is a very fine release that really deserves consideration. Recommended.

Hubert Culot

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