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20/21 - Intercomunicazione / Siegfried Palm


Release Date: 11/12/2002 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 471573   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Anton WebernIannis XenakisMauricio KagelBernd Alois Zimmermann,   ... 
Performer:  Siegfried PalmAloys Kontarsky
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

Special Order: This CD requires additional production time and ships within 2-3 weeks.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This recital of music from the 1960s and 1970s is one of Deutsche Grammophon’s 20/21 “Echoes of Our Time” series, reissues of stuff from DG’s back catalog of new music. Previous releases in the series include a recital by Leo Brouwer, music of Lutos?awski, Schnittke, Reich, and others. I’m happy to see all of it come back. DG took some of it out of the vaults in the 1980s for release on CD, but I learned with Berio’s Coro, reviewed last issue, that the sound quality is far better in at least some cases. The recordings here were made in 1969 and 1974 and are, of course, digitally remastered. Whether this was two separate releases or selections from several, I was unable to determine.

Siegfried Palm is virtually a legend,
Read more probably the most adventurous and respected new-music cellist of the 60s, at least in Europe, and the dedicatee and premiere performer of many important pieces of the era, including the cello concertos of B. A. Zimmermann and Ligeti. (His new recording of the latter has just been released on Teldec.) He was the originator of several of the pieces here. Although he’s a legend, I’d still like to have had a more comprehensive biography included with the disc. There’s nothing on Aloys Kontarsky, either.

At least partly because of the medium of solo cello or cello and piano, this cross section of progressive repertoire isn’t really all that familiar, despite the high profiles of the composers. Webern’s Three Little Pieces, op. 11, are the most often heard. The disc is as much a portrait of Palm as it is anything else, but the most interesting thing that this collection helps us remember is the diversity of progressive music of the time, even without the younger generation’s contemporary contributions. Webern, perhaps, is the guiding spirit, but the pieces range from Earle Brown’s pointillist abstraction to Kagel’s semitheatrical, humorous take on Liszt.

Xenakis’s Nomos alpha for solo cello, written for Palm, was for a long time shunned by most cellists, although by now it’s become a challenge piece for a younger generation. Highly gestural, sounding impossible in places (simultaneous ascending and descending scales), it’s a bridge, in a way, between Xenakis’s stochastic, plotted pieces and the folk-music-laced, (arguably) more intuitive later works. It’s intense and effective, and I’ve always been partial to it. My second favorite is Brown’s Music for Cello and Piano, which balances the cello and piano while keeping the texture thin, drawing on a great many different articulation types in both instruments from Bartók pizzicato, col legno, and harmonics in the cello to in-strings pizzicato in the piano, unifying the two parts beyond what’s expected.

The title of Isang Yun’s Glissées for solo cello gives away its most audible gesture, but says little about the poetic, almost singing quality of this substantial work, which is about 14 minutes long. Kagel’s Unguis incarnates est for “non-specific” instrument and piano is a gloss on the opening notes of Liszt’s Nuages gris. Invading this sound world is the deliberate noise of the piano’s pedal and a final shout of “Liszt” and its retrograde “Tzsil” (or “Ziel,” [end]). Penderecki’s Capriccio per Siegfried Palm for solo cello is a seemingly buoyant traversal through extremely varied playing techniques, but with unified motivic characteristics and repose, now and again, on a C-Major chord.

The two Zimmermann pieces are quite different from one another. The Four Short Studies, from the composer’s final year (1970), is another exploration for solo cello of different kinds of articulation: the first, different types of bowing; the second, different pizzicatos; the third, multi-stops; the fourth, sustained bowed notes. Intercomunicazione (1967) is by far the longest piece on the disc at just over 21 minutes in this performance. Much of the piece focuses on cello alone with very little piano—sustained harmonies that are barely audible as such, like resonance of the cello part, or repeated chords apparently played ad libitum with no mensural link to the cello. The cello part is long, sustained multistops through the first part of the piece, leading to a faster melodic passage containing quarter tones and harmonics. This gives way to heavily played chords in the piano, and a kind of dialog—alternation rather than counterpoint—evolves, the piano gradually gaining parity with the cello.

Palm has a strong, dark tone and assured control in the Webern pieces, and, as far as it’s sensible to consider, this seems to be the case with the other pieces as well. His Nomos alpha, for example, is more stable sounding, less capricious, than Pierre Strauch’s from 1990. This is not to say that Palm is anything other than phenomenal, or that he’s not capricious in Penderecki’s Capriccio; just that he takes a generally serious stance, not overly technical or blithely virtuosic. He was one of a handful of astoundingly accomplished players of the time and directly influenced, and continues to influence, a couple of generations of new-music performers with amazing technical capabilities. This fine disc shows why.

-- Robert Kirzinger, Fanfare [5/2003]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Cello and Piano, M 202 by Anton Webern
Performer:  Siegfried Palm (Cello), Aloys Kontarsky (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Plenarsaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany 
Length: 2 Minutes 1 Secs. 
2.
Nomos alpha by Iannis Xenakis
Performer:  Siegfried Palm (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965-1966; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Plenarsaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany 
Length: 14 Minutes 30 Secs. 
3.
Little Pieces (3) for Cello and Piano, Op. 11 by Anton Webern
Performer:  Siegfried Palm (Cello), Aloys Kontarsky (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Plenarsaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany 
Length: 2 Minutes 45 Secs. 
4.
Unguis incarnatus est by Mauricio Kagel
Performer:  Aloys Kontarsky (Piano), Siegfried Palm (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1972 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Plenarsaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany 
Length: 5 Minutes 34 Secs. 
5.
Short Studies (4) for Cello solo by Bernd Alois Zimmermann
Performer:  Siegfried Palm (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Plenarsaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany 
Length: 2 Minutes 21 Secs. 
6.
Capriccio for Cello solo "Per Siegfried Palm" by Krzysztof Penderecki
Performer:  Siegfried Palm (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; Poland 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Plenarsaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany 
Length: 6 Minutes 51 Secs. 
7.
Music for Cello and Piano by Earle Brown
Performer:  Siegfried Palm (Cello), Aloys Kontarsky (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954-1955; USA 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Plenarsaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany 
Length: 8 Minutes 11 Secs. 
8.
Glissés by Isang Yun
Performer:  Siegfried Palm (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Plenarsaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany 
Length: 14 Minutes 3 Secs. 
9.
Intercommunicazione by Bernd Alois Zimmermann
Performer:  Aloys Kontarsky (Piano), Siegfried Palm (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; Germany 
Date of Recording: 05/1969 
Venue:  Munich, Germany 
Length: 21 Minutes 8 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Cello Sonata (1914)
Nomos alpha (1965)
Three Little Pieces for Cello and Piano, op.11 (1914)
Uguis incarnatus est (1972)
Vier kurze Studien (Four short Studies) for Violoncello solo (1970)
Capriccio per Siegfried Palm (1968)
Music for Cello and Piano (1955)
Glissées (1970)
Intercomunicazione (1967) per violoncello e pianoforte

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