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Georg Friedrich HAAS (b. 1953)

Ich suchte, aber ich fand ihn nicht (2011) [26:03]
Evan JOHNSON (b. 1980)
Die Bewegung der Augen (2011-12, rev. 2013-14) [13:31]
Jani CHRISTOU (1926-1970)
Anaparastasis III „The Pianist“ (1968) [16:26]
Georg Friedrich HAAS
… Wie stille brannte das Licht (2009)* [21:34]
Ensemble Musikfabrik
Sarah Wegener (soprano)*
Conductors: Emilio PomÓrico (Ich suchte), Christian Eggen (Die Bewging), Rupert Huber (Anaparastasis III), Enno Poppe (Wie stille).
rec. 2010-14, Klaus-von-Bismark-Saal, WDR Funkhaus am Wallrafplatz, Cologne
WERGO WER6865 2 [77:59]

Silence is essential in music, though is not always uncontroversial. The notes for this release open with a quote from John Cage, “…try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.” Reading further, the four pieces here “reflect four completely different attempts to deal with emotional or audible silence, giving us a glimpse behind the ‘continuum’ that surrounds us.”

Georg Friederich Haas conjures the Songs of Solomon in his deeply effective“Ich suchte, aber ich fand ihn nicht” but in a wordless setting. Unusual instruments and a harmonium contribute to a Farben like exploration of timbre in slowly shifting harmonies and textures, using quarter-tones and glissandi to drag dissonance beyond conventional tonality. There are some echoes of Ligeti here, though Haas’s treatment of tension is rather different, heating up and diffusing dynamics rather than forcing fever-pitch climaxes that explode from sheer pressure. If you like cloud-like interplays of overtones and hints of common chords amongst strangeness and darkly ominous sonorities then this will keep you nicely chilled and fully involved.

Evan Johnson’s die bewegung der augen “deliberately deals with breaks and pauses” to the extent that you will at first be getting up to find out if something has gone wrong with your hi-fi. Acoustical events are blanked by silences as sudden and opaque as a power-cut in winter, the music a strange mixture of nervy and introspective fragments – a Braque still-life seen through a broken kaleidoscope.

Greek composer Jani Christau’s last completed work, Anaparastasis III is part of a project that was to have comprised forty compositions. This is a theatrical work with a suffering pianist, and musicians being led by a conductor instructed to create a feeling of “impending disaster.” An atmosphere is set up by a ‘continuum’ of tape sound, while events unfold into ultimate screams and general pandemonium. If you’ve ever heard Monty Python’s ‘The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots’ then you might find listening to this with a straight face rather difficult.

Georg Friederich Haas returns with … wie stille brannte das Licht, which draws on “the silence of a burning light” from Georg Trakl’s poem Nachts as well as other verses by a variety of poets to form a cycle of seven “Songs of Night.” The texts are given in the foldout sheet which has the programme notes – a rather unusual layout that makes reading it in a crowded train something of a challenge, but means the back gives us a wrinkly poster of Gerhard Richter’s ‘Kugel I’ – a photo of ball-bearing. Haas’s work with sound textures and spectral overtones is in evidence here, Sarah Wegener’s voice at times taking on a more instrumental role, and expressively communicating the text settings where these occur. This is weighty music but fairly approachable in its post-romantic dramatics if you have already at one time or another found yourself immersed in something like Berg’s Wozzeck.
This is a superbly performed and intriguing collection of modern music. Evan Johnson’s piece is a bit gimmicky and loses puff after giving away most of its secrets in the first minute or so. Jani Christou’s work is somewhat of its time and should really be seen as well as heard. Georg Friederich Haas is very much worth hearing however, and I shall certainly be looking out for more in this Edition Musikfabrik series from Wergo.

Dominy Clements



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