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Schoenberg, Kelterborn, Zimmermann: Works For Piano Trio / Absolut Piano Trio

Release Date: 11/11/2008 
Label:  Guild   Catalog #: 7322   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Arnold SchoenbergRudolf KelterbornBernd Alois Zimmermann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Absolut Piano Trio
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHOENBERG Verklärte Nacht (arr. Steuermann). 1 KELTERBORN 15 moments musicaux. ZIMMERMANN Présence 1 Absolut Tr; Peter Schweiger (spkr) 1 GUILD 7322 (74:42 Text and Translation)

Don’t panic: the reading of Richard Dehmel’s Read more poem takes place before the performance of Verklärte Nacht , not during it. Schoenberg’s string sextet served both the angst and the heat of the piece ideally; I’ve never believed that Steuermann’s arrangement is capable of realizing such passions, although it was a notable addition to the post-Brahms piano-trio repertoire. The Absolut Trio delivers a superlative performance, playing with beauteous tone and great plasticity while reveling in the drama. The trio still lacks the full power of the sextet, but I’m delighted to have been proven 90 percent wrong.

Do you know anyone who is 110 years old? Isn’t it time we stopped calling this 1899 music “contemporary?” Words have meanings, and this one should not be appropriated as a euphemism for “music I don’t like.”

Rudolf Kelterborn (b. 1931) composed his 15 moments musicaux for the Absolut Trio in 2006, but they could have been written in the year of his birth. These short, widely varied snapshots have a strong Webernsque quality, not only in brevity—they average about one minute in duration—but in their jewel-like scoring and sudden dynamic bursts. Variations in texture provide much of the interest, with the three instruments speaking independently as well as in ensemble. It takes a composer of imagination and power to grab and hold our attentions with such music; that Kelterborn does so proves him a worthy follower of Webern.

Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s 1961 Présence has certain aural similarities to the Kelterborn, but it is realized on a grander scale. Music for a (imaginary?) ballet, it presents five scenes, featuring Don Quixote, Molly Bloom, and Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. Although dotted with brief musical quotations (Strauss’s Don Quixote , Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata, and something of Stockhausen that I didn’t catch), the music is Zimmermann’s typical German post-expressionism, perhaps filtered through Webern. Each section is introduced by a brief speech in German. Although I am unable to analyze the music or explain its fascination, I find this half hour to be as involving and rewarding as anything I have heard from Zimmermann, including his grand opera Die Soldaten . Even a two-minute section of near silence has one listening intently for the slightest variations in tempo and dynamics, as a single piano note is struck at several levels below pp every few seconds. Présence may be considered Zimmermann’s most popular work, as there are at least three other recordings available, none of which I have heard.

One must credit the Absolut Trio (Bettina Boller, violin; Imke Frank, cello; Stefka Perifanova, piano) for cutting-edge performances that make Kelterborn and Zimmermann come alive on this disc. The Swiss label’s 2007 recordings, in Radio Studio Zurich, seat the performers in our listening rooms. Richard Dehmel’s poem appears in both the German and English notes, but the words spoken in the Zimmermann are not printed in either language.

This one’s a keeper, for sure.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Verklärte Nacht for String Sextet, Op. 4 by Arnold Schoenberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Absolut Piano Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1899; Vienna, Austria 
Moments Musicaux (15) for Piano Trio by Rudolf Kelterborn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Absolut Piano Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Présence by Bernd Alois Zimmermann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Absolut Piano Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961 

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