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Ulrich LEYENDECKER (b. 1946)
Symphony No. 3 (1990/91) [29:24]
Violin Concerto (1995) [28:19]
Roland Greutter (violin)
North German Radio Symphony Orchestra/Johannes Kalitze
rec. 4 November 1994 (Symphony No. 3) and 2 February 1996 (Violin Concerto), NDR Studio, Hamburg, Germany. DDD
NAXOS 8.557427 [57:43]


Despite being featured in a series of ‘21st Century Classics’, these two works by this German composer were both written in the first half of the 1990s. While Leyendecker is one of a more recent generation that has abandoned the avant-garde styles of the twentieth century, it is clear to see that this significant composer of mainly orchestral and chamber music does not look all that far back for much of his inspiration. It would be wrong to suggest that Leyendecker is a post-war Romanticist, but it would also be incorrect to state there is absolutely no trace of avant-garde in this music. He is more concerned with the relation between form and orchestration and the importance of overall structure in the music. His music is not particularly nationalistic, but rather a personal and individual means of expression. Overall the musical style is somewhat eclectic, and cannot be pigeon-holed into any specific category.

The booklet notes from Cris Posslac incorporate a fairly substantial note on both works from Leyendecker himself, although Posslac informs us that they are not an instruction on what to hear in the music, rather just a note on how the pieces themselves were constructed. The composer’s texts are rather analytical and do not give a very detailed insight into his compositional processes. There are also one or two unnecessary comments from Posslac on issues in contemporary music in order to demonstrate this brand of music as a more viable alternative to the avant-garde.

A rich and constantly changing orchestration and palette of colour pervades Leyendecker’s third symphony. Despite its slow and pensive nature, there is a constant tension beneath the surface, with a significant use of arch structure, both in the separate movements and in the three-movement structure as a whole. There is an abundance of small motifs that recur, particularly in the rondo-like and intricately complex scherzo of the second movement. The two outer movements are, however, both considerably slower, and while they are not as complex they do retain a level of involvedness, being at no time straightforward. A slightly ambiguous sense tonality gives a tenuous link to the past, along with the use of traditional forms and the movement and work titles.

The recording heard here catches the first performance of the Violin Concerto. This took place in front of a live studio audience in 1996. The sense of tonality is a little increased in the three movements of the concerto, the change obviously reflecting the presence of a soloist. Traditional forms are represented in each movement of the concerto, where a good deal of tension still lurks, often unleashed in frequent climactic sections. The violin sounds at times folk-like in its rapid figurations, particularly in the opening movement and the soloist is found at the centre of the many contrasts, taking on a large number of roles with apparent ease. An increasing number of moods, and even identities, for the violin soloist are found in the remaining two movements. The violin leads an extended musical vision of space filled with ever-growing density of orchestration and colour in the second movement. The variations of the final movement give ample opportunity for a range of textures from the violin.

The artists give clean performances, with an extensive series of emotions brought through from the score. A immensely accurate rendering of the concerto is also provided by the soloist and dedicatee, Roland Greutter. The recorded sound is appreciably warm in the violin concerto, and (rather appropriately) a little more icy in the symphony.

Adam Binks

See also Review by Gary Higginson




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