Ursula MAMLOK (1921-2016)
Sonata for piano solo (1942) [9:18]
The Birds Dream (19:44) [4:42]
Molto vivo (1947) [2:22]
Allegro for violin and piano (1943) [5:57]
Sonata for violin and piano (1989) [10:15]
Sextet (1977) [12:43]
Rückblick (2002) [5:47]
Fünf Phantasiestücke (2012/13) [6:57]
Above Clouds (2013/14) [8:43]
Breezes (2015) [5:18]
Musicians of Spectrum Concerts Berlin
rec. Deutschlandradio Kultur, Berlin, Germany, September 2014 and June 2015; Radio Studio Zürich, Switzerland, May 2014; Kammermusiksaal, Berliner Philharmonie, Germany, April 2015; Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem, Germany, April 2014.
BRIDGE 9457 [73:10]
This is the fifth volume in a series of discs launched by Bridge and devoted to the music of Ursula Mamlok (reviews of Volume 1 & Volume 2). It's the fourth that I own and I have been impressed with what I have heard so far. Born in Germany she was forced, along with the rest of her family, to flee the country in 1938 due to Nazi oppression of the Jews. They settled firstly in Ecuador before in 1940, Ursula moved, on her own, to New York in order to study. The rest of her family joined her the following year. She became an American citizen in 1945. There were various influences upon her compositions including Hindemith, but more importantly Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. She once described her music as “colourful, with the background of tonality” and this can be heard in the music presented on this disc. Sadly Mamlok died earlier this year (2016).
The first three pieces are all for solo piano. While piano music has featured on other volumes, they have been occasional short pieces, so it is good to be able to get better acquainted with it. The influence of Hindemith is strong in the neo-classicism of the Sonata, whilst the structure of The Birds Dream with its six very short movements reminds me of that of the compact miniatures of Webern. The music itself is once again rooted in neo-classicism with a hint of the serialism that was to come.
The short Allegro for violin and piano was composed when Mamlok was only twenty, although it did not receive its premiere until 2015. As allegros go, this is not the swiftest, with the piano given as prominent a role as that of the violin. It is in some ways reminiscent of Reger's music for violin and piano. The Sonata for violin and piano, composed some forty-six years later is a much meatier work, with a lot packed into its ten minutes. It follows the traditional three movement structure but its musical style has moved on from the neo-classicism of her early works to the serialist idiom. This is serialism with the colour that the composer discussed, especially in the middle movement which is marked Calm and tender.
This is followed by the Sextet, which some listeners might find a little more challenging. Scored for flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, violin, bass and piano, it opens with a first movement, With fluctuating tension, which is a fine example of serialism technique. The second movement, Very calm, takes the music in a different way, although it is peppered with echoes of the agitation of the first movement. The final movement, Light and airy, opens with a short and quite jazzy theme, which returns later.
Rückblick for alto saxophone and piano, was an important work for Mamlok as it was not only composed during her second period of living in Berlin, but also because it was written in memory of the events of the “Reichspogromnacht”, or ‘Night of broken glass’ that took place on 9 November 1938. Its four short movements detail a range of contrasting emotions: fear, agitation and the sadness of the night.
The Fünf Phantasiestücke were composed for the oboist Heinz Holliger, who performs them here. They are notable for their colour and characterful qualities.
The final two works, Above Clouds, for viola and piano and Breezes for clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano, are performed by members of Spectrum Concerts Berlin. This group champions Mamlok’s music and has been ever-present in these recordings and even on the Naxos disc (8.559716). In Above Clouds Mamlok expertly recycles music from other pieces, transforming them into new and completely different works. We are told that the links with the themes employed in Breezes are more tenuous.
This is an excellent disc — my favourite of the series so far. Yes, the influence of the Second Viennese School looms large. That said, it is an influence that is tempered with a colour and temperament all of Mamlok’s own, one which makes this music quite accessible. The performances are excellent throughout as are the recorded sound and booklet notes.
List of performers
Kolja Lessing (violin); Holger Groschopp (piano); Parnassus/Anthony Korf; Hartmut Rohde (viola); Heinz Holliger (oboe), Hanna Weinmeister (violin), Jürg Dähler (viola); Daniel Haefliger (cello); Frank Lunte (alto saxophone); Tatjana Blome (piano)