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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Peter RUZICKA (b. 1948)
Celan Symphony (1997-1999) [50:04]
Erinnerung for clarinet and orchestra (2000) [18:17]
Anne-Carolyn Schlüter (sop); Thomas Mohr (bar)
Sharon Kam (clarinet)
NDR Sinfonieorchester/Peter Ruzicka
Rec. no details given
THOROFON CTH 2490 [68:21]


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 with impact.

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.

Rob Barnett



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