Peter Michael HAMEL (b.1947)
Vom Klang des Lebens (1992-2006)
I Departure/Abreise: In memoriam John Cage [2:49]
II In memoriam Alfred A. Tomatis [1:41]
III Milestone for Miles Davis [8:08]
IV In memoriam Morton Feldman [6:17]
V In memoriam Walter Bachauer [3:11]
VI In memoriam Dane Rudhyar [4:31]
VII In memoriam Pandit Patekar [8:42]
VIII In memoriam Olivier Messiaen [5:31]
IX In memoriam Giacinto Scelsi [8:44]
X In memoriam Iannis Xenakis [2:51]
XI For Johann David Antonin *21.10.1992 [3:28]
XII Arrival/Ankunft: In memoriam John Cage [3:35]  
Roger Woodward (piano)
rec. 14-17 January 2006, Tonstudio Ulrich Klaus, Wörthsee, Bavaria.
This disc has been reviewed by Jonathan Woolf elsewhere on these pages, but deserves re-visiting, not only as a part of Roger Woodward’s remarkable recorded repertoire, but as a significant cycle for piano solo.
Vom Klang des Lebens, dedicated to the composer’s wife and son, is a highly personal set of twelve pieces which express multiple layers, from intimate feelings to the ambitious if almost incidental creation of a monument to musical culture in recent times. The title ‘The Sound of Life’ comes from a book by French doctor Alfred A. Tomatis, who was able to demonstrate that the sense of hearing is already fully developed in the fifth month of pregnancy. Hamel, always a skilled and enthusiastic pianist, improvised and notated the basis of several of the pieces we have here, and the work as a whole represents something of a musical diary from the period in which it was written.
There is a great deal of symbolism in the work, and a study of the structural and thematic relationships threading themselves through the cycle would be a fascinating study. The most important thing as an initial impression is that this is hardly the kind of forbidding avant-garde music which will put off all but the most serious of contemporary music collectors. There are a few ‘modern’ sounding movements, but the over-riding impression one takes away is of music which is often charmingly romantic and tonal. That improvisatory feel inhabits much of the music, particularly in longer pieces such as the In memoriam Giacinto Scelsi. As one might expect, Milestone for Miles Davis has a strong feel of harmonic progression, and a rolling rhythm which is more Miles than minimalist, though not essentially jazz derived. Tremolando textures create their own ostinato feel for In memoriam Walter Bachauer, who was an editor and music journalist who had been greatly attracted to minimalist music. A powerful and moving pianistic and musical statement, In memoriam Dane Rudhyar rises from enigmatic depths to achieve a valedictory daybreak and resolution, and the development of modes and phrases which borrow from Indian Raga is continued with the gently lyrical In memoriam Pandit Patekar.
Peter Michael Hamel goes against the grain of avant-garde modernism in these pieces, but while some contemporary music might in the past have poured scorn on such tonal expressions, none of this music can be criticised as being vapid new-age meandering. Hamel has a fine ear for variation and resonance, and each work goes beyond the creation of mere atmosphere by developing a strong sense of structure and spatial movement, both harmonically and thematically. The more intense pieces coupled with Messiaen, Xenakis and Cage also explore resonance. In memoriam Olivier Messiaen searches for and never quite finds resolution through richly chromatic chords over extended bass pedal tones. With In memoriam Iannis Xenakis we hear the architectural blocks of the music exposed, forming shifting masses of questioning sonority. The first to be written and shortest of the pieces, In memoriam Alfred A. Tomatis, conjures the beginnings of life from amorphous low rumblings which move without a break into Miles Davis’ Milestone. The ‘book ends’ of Vom Klang des Lebens are the two In memoriam John Cage pieces, which are almost identical to each other and serve a similar function as the Aria of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, initiating and closing the cycle with spare and deceptive simplicity.
Peter Michael Hamel’s Vom Klang des Lebens is a fine piece, and one which should be attractive to a wide audience. Roger Woodward’s sensitive and beautifully nuanced playing is met with an equally sophisticated recording, and this a disc which deserves an honoured place in any good collection of piano music.
Dominy Clements
A fine piece beautifully performed. ... see Full Review