Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cristina Zavalloni (sop);
David Atherton, cond;
Synergy Vocals; London Sinfonietta
SIGNUM SIGCD273 (75:02) Live: London 4/14/2011
Louis Andriessen’s renown today is such that, as with Bach, one no longer needs a first name or
initials to distinguish him from the other fine composers in his family—his father, Hendrik, and his older brother, Jurriaan. This disc contrasts a recent (2010) work with the 1972–76 one that brought Louis international attention and acclaim. Although the later piece comes first on this CD, let’s consider them in chronological order.
, on texts from Plato’s
, is “based on tetrachords, groups of four notes, which also explains the scoring for groups of four” (Andriessen): women’s voices, oboes, horns, trumpets, trombones, and violas, plus two electric guitars, one bass guitar, two pianos, and two harps. Completed the same year as Steve Reich’s
Music for 18 Musicians
, it was a breakthrough work not only for its composer but also for Minimalism. Whereas the Reich was an expression of pure Minimalism, Andriessen expanded the concept to include more aggressive, potent music: Much of
is a gloss on
Le Sacre du printemps
(which points up the inherent minimalism in that maximalist work). As does
Le Sacre, De Staat
has a hectoring clamor that would become typical of Andriessen’s music and contributes to our fascination with it.
A performance at the 1978 Holland Festival by the Netherlands Wind Ensemble led by Lucas Vis (Donemus CV 7702) was a dramatic powerhouse; the excitement of the live performance comes across on the LP and is now available as an mp3 download. A 1990 recording by the Schoenberg Ensemble under Reinbert de Leeuw (Nonesuch 9 79251-2) is more tightly controlled, to both its benefit and loss. This new recording makes more of the vocal parts, fully realized by Synergy Vocals (a group associated with Reich), which directs our attention to Plato’s texts, even though they are sung in poeticized Greek (English translations appear in the booklet). Each performance is about one minute slower than the previous one, damping a bit of the original excitement. All enjoy fine recorded sound; this one’s warm acoustic further dilutes the aggressive music, which may please some listeners. There have been at least two other recordings, on Attacca and DG Concerts, which I have not heard. No matter which you choose, you should have a representation of this 20th-century masterpiece.
The new work,
, is a monodrama for voice and eight instrumentalists (two clarinetists, horn, trumpet, violin, double bass, piano, and percussion), with no conductor. It also includes a singer, Hans Buhrs, speaking the male lines on tape and in film clips. The texts (provided in the booklet) address various Nin love affairs, as told by Antonin Artaud and Nin herself. In
Incest: A Journal of Love,
she relates an affair with her father, including details of their mutual seduction. Andriessen may have chosen this text for its shock value, as he has always enjoyed puncturing conventional attitudes (becoming the musical establishment himself must have been philosophically challenging).
’s composer is immediately recognizable, keeping to his recent trend of building music from discrete blocks of sound, sometimes chord by chord. This seems odd for a vocal piece that tells a story, but it does help keep the words intelligible. It was written for Cristina Zavalloni, the composer’s current favorite soprano and occasional muse. Her intense singing, both cool and hot, fits perfectly with Andriessen’s music, often assuming the character of a woodwind somewhere between a flute and an alto sax; her English is excellent (the first section is in Artaud’s French). The piece sags a bit in its middle, and Zavalloni drifts off mike a bit. Another Zavalloni performance of
, with a Dutch nieuw-music group called Nieuw Amsterdams Peil, is available on a DVD, Attacca 2011127. This CD is correctly ordered: One should hear
, every minute of which crackles with kicking life.
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
Anaïs Nin by Louis Andriessen
Cristina Zavalloni (Mezzo Soprano)
De Staat by Louis Andriessen
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1972-1976; Netherlands (Holland
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