Let me tell you
Stratospheric Barbara Hannigan
Birmingham and BBC Proms
One to treasure
One of the
Book and CD
Book + 4CDs
Luigi NONO (1924-1990) Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima (1980) [38:08]
Quartet: Walter Levin (violin); Henry Meyer (violin);
(viola (alto); Lee Fiser (cello). DDD DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON
415 513-1 [38:08]
music won’t immediately appeal to everyone; but, approached
with an open mind, it really ought to inspire and please.
Nono’s lovely Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima is
essentially highly condensed studied, almost ‘minimalist’ -
in the sense of being very… fragmented, quiet, pared down
- sound painting for strings. It’s not the world of Ligeti’s Atmosphères,
nor of some of Schoenberg’s desperate string compositions
although it has a quiet reserve in common with each. It’s
more spare than the first and marginally less romantic
than anything by Schoenberg or Webern. But the impact of Fragmente – Stille,
An Diotima in this splendid performance by the LaSalle
Quartet will be every bit as great.
a single work commissioned for those players at the 1983
Bonn Beethoven Festival. It is unique in a number of ways:
technically, it must be chamber music, but it’s very far
from concerning itself with the sonorities and consonant
interplay of four stringed instruments. Rather, the quartet
plays at times almost as a single instrument, laying sounds
on top of one another in Klangfarbenmelodie fashion.
What’s more, silence is as important an entity as sound.
These facets of the composition alone – yet used unhistrionically
in this combination - surely explain what was part of Nono’s
revulsion at the ordered and tidy values of the bourgeoisie.
How easy for composer and/or player to have fallen into
gratuitous, nihilistic effects to convey departure from
norms: not a bit of it here. The conception and execution
are unself-conscious and very low key. After all, it was
Nono’s intention with this piece to "externalize
as fully as possible that which has been internalised … that
is what matters today". Success all round: the playing
achieves such cerebral goals with great musicality so don’t
hesitate to buy this recording – although less than 40
minutes’ worth of music, the impact on your mental energy
is much greater.
conceptual, Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima is really
closer to the abstract embodiment of ideas – but in neither
a conventionally figurative way or even by distilling an idée
fixe. Fragments of Hölderlin are written on the score
and the players are instructed to sing them inwardly – they
must never be spoken aloud. Nor are the poet’s words to
be taken – according to Nono - as indicating any kind of
programme. The autonomy - from narrative and verbalisation
- is intended to help the players to arrive at what Hölderlin
called a ‘delicate harmony of the inner life’. Hölderlin’s
poem, Diotima, (Socrates' teacher) is concerned
with time. This piece is as much about the influences of
the past - there are fragments, quotations of musical themes
by Ockeghem, Beethoven and Verdi here - on an understanding
of our place in the present. Presumably it’s those ideas
too on which the players dwell as they let Hölderlin’s
fragments work on them.
it’s crucial that the performers – and there are two other
recordings in the current catalogue: The Ardittis on Naïve (782172)
and a performance orchestrated by Maderna as part of a
compilation on Col Legno (20505) -
understand and feel this set of correspondences and are
able to translate them into their playing. The LaSalle
very clearly does. Their playing is both raw and exposed
- they’re closely miked - almost playfully lyrical without
being maudlin and as tightly directed towards the sound
as towards any ‘philosophy’, which is what Nono wanted.
is hardly music to be listened to casually - which serious
music is, though! - although you may be surprised at how
easily and quickly you can become familiar with it.
As with all these Arkiv CDs you will receive a boxed, record
company-authorised CD-R at a low price, a reproduction
of the original cover and back of booklet. The original
liner-notes are not included. But this is twentieth century
music of distinction played by eminently capable practitioners
and of interest and value in all respects.
from previous months Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the
discs reviewed. details We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to
which you refer.