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Helge Burggrabe: Jehoschua - Rotes Oratorium

Burggrabe / Jeremias / Ens Resonanz / Bantzer
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 934   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Helge Burggrabe
Performer:  Manuel KonigGeraldine Zeller
Conductor:  Claus Bantzer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble ResonanzHarvestehude Chamber Choir
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BURGGRABE Jehoschua—Red Oratorio Claus Bantzer, cond; Geraldine Zeller (sop); Anne Bierwirth (alt); Manuel König (ten); Christoph Bantzer (speaker); Harvestehuder C Ch; Resonanz Ens OEHMS OC 934 (2 CDs: 113:45 )

This is an extremely difficult listen—at least as presented by Oehms, without an English text to follow. It is clear that this music is closely aligned to the words, and if you are fluent in German, perhaps this will work for you (Ohems does provide a German text, Read more but none in English despite notes and biographies in English).

Helge Burggrabe is a German composer, recorder player, and flutist, born in 1973. He clearly has a keen ear for orchestral and instrumental color, and has written this work with a quite extraordinary aural imagination. It is described by the composer as a “sacred work for soprano, alto, tenor, cello, clarinet, speaker, marimba, vibraphone, tam-tam, drum, tubular bells, chamber choir, and string orchestra.” The music is alternately warmly lyrical, drily neoclassic in an almost Stravinskian vein, sometimes highly rhythmic (with percussion writing not unlike lightly scored Orff). But without being able to connect the mood and color changes to textual meaning, one is left to appreciate it purely as sound, and that doesn’t work because the music clearly demands to be understood on more levels than that.

Burggrabe has demonstrated earlier an interest in spatial effects, and in combining effects from different worlds. His Stella Maris is described as a “concertante total art work for music, space, language, water, and light.” Jehoschua is music that is strongly related to the actual sounds of its texts as well as the meaning. The composer says, “The starting point of this work are the vowels in the Hebrew name jehoshua (Jesus): i-e-o-u-a. Both in terms of language and sound, these vowels take up the central subject matter of the oratorio and enable it to be vividly experienced.”

The recording incorporates extensive notes by Burggrabe, and to be honest they left me confused rather than elucidated. There are many beautiful and evocative moments in this work, many moments that really caught my attention, even with my limited German vocabulary. But there were also far too many moments that didn’t connect, perhaps because of the lack of translation, but also, I felt, because of a lack of cohesiveness in the music.

Those interested in new music, and willing to risk an exploration into new territory, may find this a satisfying experience. There is no question about the quality of the performance; it is superb. The recording is clear, natural, and very well balanced.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

Jehoschua, Rotes Oratorium by Helge Burggrabe
Performer:  Manuel Konig (), Geraldine Zeller ()
Conductor:  Claus Bantzer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Resonanz,  Harvestehude Chamber Choir
Date of Recording: 11/21/2009 
Venue:  Kirche am Markt, Hamburg 
Length: 2 Minutes 49 Secs. 

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