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Schwertsik: Baumgesange; Herr K Entdeckt Amerika / Gruber, BBC Philharmonic

Schwertsik / Bbc Philharmonic Orch / Gruber
Release Date: 09/27/2011 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10687   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Kurt Schwertsik
Conductor:  Heinz Karl "Nali" Gruber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Elegantly orchestrated, witty, generally melodic music, written for audience enjoyment rather than maven approbation.

To read that, as a young man, Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik attended the same classes as Stockhausen, Nono, Cage and Kagel, and was a close friend of Cornelius Cardew, might set alarm bells ringing in some people. These are hardly stayed by the fact that the conductor on this disc is H K Gruber, another colleague and good friend - to judge by the photos, the two could almost be brothers! Yet Schwertsik turned his back on the trendy avant-garde almost right away, and for most music-lovers, acquiring a taste for his music should be as straightforward as acquiring this CD.

The
Read more composition dates can be put aside as immaterial: this is a disc of elegantly orchestrated, witty, generally melodic, almost film-suite-style music, written for audience enjoyment rather than maven approbation. It is hard not to hear other composers in Schwertsik's writing. Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Copland, Arnold, Prokofiev and especially, and repeatedly, Mahler are all brought to mind here, where not directly paraphrased - and perhaps therein lies his certain appeal to a wider public. So much is obvious from the seductive Nachtmusiken op.104 that opens the programme, an atmospheric five-movement sequence "of urban nocturnes, elegies, memories and philosophisings under the cloak of darkness."

On the other hand, Schwertsik is probably not going to win many prizes for originality. Gruber writes that Schwertsik's music is "not for superficial listeners". Truthfully it lends itself well to a typically 21st century listening environment, in that its ideas combine to create a warm quilt of agreeable sounds, light drama, gentle irony and limpid structure requiring no concentrated effort to appreciate.

The Kafka-inspired Herr K Entdeckt Amerika, according to the notes, has little obviously programmatic or even overtly American content, despite the fact that movement headings - 'Crossing' - 'At the Hotel' - 'Travelling' - 'The Nature Theater of Oklahoma' - appear to indicate otherwise. As an off-the-peg four part suite-cum-ballet, subtitled a 'Sonatina for orchestra', it is just as easy to enjoy - an innocuous work, not a great one, but again with wide appeal. For a composer still massively under-recorded, it is a pity in a way that, following these two premiere recordings, Gruber and Chandos chose to add Baumgesänge, op.65, which appeared in 2004 on ABC Classics. On balance, it is probably a good thing for posterity to have two recordings of it, but this is already a shortish disc, and prospective purchasers are entitled to wonder why one of Schwertsik's several concertos, for example, was not recorded instead - or as well. At any rate, in Baumgesänge Schwertsik writes that he has "tried to give trees a voice" - a novel idea, to say the least. Whether or not said objective is achieved, this is another attractive, cinematographic work that builds to an exciting finale.

The BBC Philharmonic under their latest "Composer/Conductor" H K Gruber sound in typically fine form. Recording quality is very good. The trilingual booklet notes are written by Gruber and Calum MacDonald, intelligent and informative. It should be said, however, that Chandos do waste a shocking amount of paper with their absurdly compacted paragraphs - the 36 sides are only about a third of that in real money. Nor will their small faint font appeal to those whose eyesight is not what it once was. The track-listing spells the German 'aggressiv' wrong twice, and there are two track 15s.

-- Byzantion, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Baumgesänge, Op. 65 by Kurt Schwertsik
Conductor:  Heinz Karl "Nali" Gruber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 21st Century 
Written: Austria 
2.
Herr K entdeckt Amerika, Op. 101 by Kurt Schwertsik
Conductor:  Heinz Karl "Nali" Gruber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 21st Century 
Written: Austria 
3.
Nachtmusiken, Op. 104 by Kurt Schwertsik
Conductor:  Heinz Karl "Nali" Gruber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 21st Century 
Written: Austria 

Sound Samples

Nachtmusiken, Op. 104: I. Janacek ist mir im Traum erschienen
Nachtmusiken, Op. 104: II. Wienerlied
Nachtmusiken, Op. 104: III. ... for David Drew
Nachtmusiken, Op. 104: IV. Geschwindmarsch
Nachtmusiken, Op. 104: V. Flucht
Herr K. entdeckt Amerika, Op. 101: I. Uberfahrt
Herr K. entdeckt Amerika, Op. 101: II. Im Hotel
Herr K. entdeckt Amerika, Op. 101: III. Unterwegs
Herr K. entdeckt Amerika, Op. 101: IV. Das Naturtheater von Oklahoma
Baumgesange (Tree Songs), Op. 65: I. Breit gesungen
Baumgesange (Tree Songs), Op. 65: II. Lebhaft, aggresiv
Baumgesange (Tree Songs), Op. 65: III. Bleischwer
Baumgesange (Tree Songs), Op. 65: IV. Sehr gedehnt
Baumgesange (Tree Songs), Op. 65: V. Beweglich
Baumgesange (Tree Songs), Op. 65: VI. Lebhaft, aggresiv

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