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Martin MÜNCH (b. 1961)
Arabesques
Märchen und Arabesken Op.32 (1996/7) [22:22]
2nd Sonata “Kampf um den Stil” Op.6 No.2 (1978) [12:12]
Sechs verbotene Trauermärsche Op.37 (2001/3)
Trauer über 16600 vergeblich begehrte Frauen [5:14]
Trauer über Landschaftsfraß und menschenfeindliche moderne Architektur [2:08]
Trauer über den totalitären Zwang zu häßlicher neuer Musik [3:33]
Trauer über die Verbrechen der Religionen an der Menschlichkeit [1:57]
Trauer über Unfähigkeit, Demütigung, Bedürftigkeit, Ohnmacht ...[2:59]
Trauer über die Auslöschung des freien Denkens, Sprechens ...[2:12]
Sterl-Impressionen Op.49b (2011)
Prozession an der Wolga [2:22]
Ansich von Astrachan mit Booten im Hafen [1:11]
Feld- und Waldlandschaft mit Gewässer
Landschaft mit Heuernte [3:07]
Schiffszieher an der Wolga [1:52]
Am Hafen von Astrachan [1:00]
Pour Louise (2009) [1:22]
Petit Morceau (2011) [2:00]
Laurent Wagschal (piano)
rec. 2012/13, Bauer Studios, Ludwigsburg, Germany
EDITION PROMETHEUS PMT 1036 - ACD 6147 [67:15]

Originally from Frankfurt, Martin Münch studied piano and composition in Mainz, Frankfurt and Karlsruhe where his professor was Wolfgang Rihm. He has over fifty opus numbers to his credit and a flourishing career as a festival director and pianist as well as a composer.
 
I had not come across his work before but was disappointed in my hope that the CD notes might increase my knowledge. That the notes are only in German and French is not necessarily a problem as the information in them is scarcely more than what you have just read. Certainly there is nothing useful about the pieces; a pity given that their titles suggest considerable background and context. I have provided rough translations below.
 
Neither is Münch’s website much help, and his own publishing body's website does not go into detail.
 
All that aside, this is a most interesting issue of diverse and worthwhile piano music in a conservative but certainly contemporary idiom. The Märchen und Arabesken (“Tales and Arabesques” - but what is implied by Arabesques? - were written “für Jugendliche”. They attractively combine wit and whimsy with just a touch of sentimentality. A modern equivalent of Schumann’s Album für die Jugend, perhaps? Though I have not seen the score, they give the impression of being pianistically written. As a modest amateur, I would be delighted to give them a try.
 
The Second Sonata is a much earlier work, quite virtuosic and, I would guess, written by Münch for himself to play while a student. “Kampf um den Stil” translates as “Struggle for the style” - but what style?. I hear the influence of Ravel, Scriabin and Debussy - composers that feature in Münch’s repertoire as a pianist.
 
The more recent Sechs verbotene Trauermärsche are much stronger stuff and well worth repeated hearings. Why they are ‘forbidden’ is not clear to me, and neither are the motivations behind the programmatic titles. Here are some attempts at translations:
 
I Mourning over 16,600 vain and coveted women (no idea who)
II Mourning over lost landscape and inhuman modern architecture
III Mourning over fascistic pressure to adopt ugly new music
IV Mourning over the crimes of religions on the human race
V Mourning over disability, humiliation, deprivation, powerlessness …
VI Mourning over the extinction of free thought, speech …
 
The work of the German landscape artist Robert Sterl inspired the Sterl-Impressionen of 2011. These are attractive pieces though, again, it would be instructive to know the background to the inspiration; similarly for the last two pieces on the disc.
 
While Münch has often played the piano himself on recordings of his own music, the work of interpretation is here entrusted to the fine French pianist Laurent Wagschal who has recorded some lesser-known French music – Emmanuel, Pierné, Caplet, Tomasi – as soloist, accompanist and chamber musician, all to considerable approval in these webpages and elsewhere. Wagschal colourfully characterizes the various ‘narratives’ and plays the more virtuosic music with considerable assurance.
 
The recorded sound is fine and this is music well worth getting to know.
 
Roger Blackburn