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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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plays Karlheinz Stockhausen's




Bruno Heinen (piano); Fulvio Sigurta (trumpet): James Allsopp (bass clarinet); Tom Challenger (tenor saxophone): Andrea di Biase (bass): Jon Scott (drums)

Recorded at Eastcote Studios, undated [51:41]

Stockhausen wrote Tierkreis during 1974-75 and it concerns itself with the signs of the zodiac. There are twelve melodies, each standing for one of the star signs – each melody is serial and originally written for music boxes as part of a children’s theatre performance. Stockhausen authorised the use of any kinds of instrument, however, only stipulating that the event starts with the star sign of the performance date and then move onwards, reprising the opening melody at the end. Given that improvisation was inherent in these kinds of performances, leader Bruno Heinen has developed the idea by re-working a lot of the material.

Given also that the performance was recorded in April we start with Aries and then as each sign progresses to the next Heinen and his outstanding improvisers take us on a charming and ingenious Stockhausian tour, where the tinkling beauty of the music boxes (Aries) prefaces a more straight-ahead piece of storytelling in Taurus – hints of Keith Jarrett and High Life in the rhythmic attack. Gemini is the acme of conversational exchanges, tenor player Tom Challenger full of richly intoned lines. Challenger and trumpeter Fulvio Sigurta exchange pleasantries on Cancer that serves to show how the interplay between the group members is articulate and creative. Some elements can easily be described but it would also be true to say that this suite should be savoured not through the medium of words but actively, engagingly – the march themes exude confident brio, the trumpet’s presence veering from brash to lonesome. And where the music turns funkier, with insistent bass clarinet calls and trumpet flurries over a resilient rhythm, we can be assured that the leader’s hyper-articulate piano soling will bring stylish order to the proceedings.

In fact this is a sonic, thematic and rhythmic treat of an album. The front line – trumpet, tenor, bass clarinet - brings rich colour, whilst the rhythm proves galvanizing and effortlessly au fait. The music box sonorities remain a delight, both touching and antique simultaneously, and the improvising is at a high level. Above all, the music is fun, engaging, enjoyable and not remotely forbidding. It’s a joy to hear.

Jonathan Woolf

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