The major work here
owes its existence to the opera Celan
- a work that occupied composer-conductor
Peter Ruzicka through much of the 1990s.
It was completed in 1999.
Paul Celan, poet, translator,
philologist and academic, was born Paul
Antschel of German-speaking Jewish parents
in Czernowitz, now Chernovtsy, in the
Ukraine. The family were Jews. Czernowitz
was known as "Little Vienna" and German
was the language of the household. Celan
had a lifelong passion for German poetry.
He studied medicine in Paris in 1938
and then Romance philology at the University
of Czernowitz. When the war came his
parents were sent to a concentration
camp. Celan ended up in a forced-labour
camp but unlike his parents survived.
In 1948 he fetched up in Paris where
he became a teacher of German language
at the Ecole Normale Supérieure.
He went through several surname changes:
Aurel to Ancel to Celan. He suffered
from depression and committed suicide
by drowning in the Seine on 1 May 1970,
the year when he met the conductor Peter
Ruzicka. Celan’s diary for the day of
his death simply reads: "Depart Paul".
The Symphony begins
in a minatory and tense staccato clicking
- raps and rolls rising to explosive
outbursts. Ruzicka here gives voice
to the cataclysm. At volume peak his
rolling splenetic climaxes indicate
a familiarity with the Pettersson symphonies.
This can be heard in the Vorgefühle
(tr. 1) and In der Natur (tr.
5). Contrast this element with the crepuscular
tenderness, long-held lines and solo
cantilena at the start of Das
leere zimmer (tr. 3). This provides
relief from the tormented hectoring
of some of the writing. In the Nachklang
the Mahlerian adagio treads
the fine line along the cold or comforting
border between desolation and consolation.
Interestingly this once again suggests
a fellow feeling with the symphonies
of Allan Pettersson. The singing voices
are strong and distinctive. We have
Schlüter’s darkly-veiled mezzo
obsidian as well as the optimistic radiance
of Thomas Mohr. Both are called on both
to sing and speak.
Erinnerung - Spuren
(Memories - Traces) is in
a single movement. Like the Symphony,
Ruzicka’s language is 1970s modernistic
on one hand and gentle on the other.
Dissonance is freely used but then again
you encounter moments of considerable
lyrical beauty. The clarinet darts,
flickers, flashes, sings. The instrument
is called on to plumb the depths of
its register. A downward spiralling
solo ushers in another of Ruzicka’s
Gehenna visions at 10:11 onwards. This
expressionist piece would go well with
the clarinet concerto by Thea Musgrave.
The liner notes are
very full but I would have valued something
about the plot of the Celan opera
and more about the dates and premiere
details of Ruzicka’s works. It is my
misfortune not to be a German speaker
so I was sorry that Thorofon had not
commissioned the Berridges to translate
the sung German text printed on pp.
13-15 of the booklet.
By the way this disc
is stunningly recorded; combining transparency
Perhaps you enjoy Zemlinsky’s
Lyric Symphony or Mahler’s Ninth
and Tenth symphonies. If so, and provided
you are also open-minded about dissonance
and perhaps well attuned to Pettersson’s
symphonies, then you must hear these
works. The symphony is an unequivocally
impressive piece of writing.