Notes and Editorial Reviews
5 Pieces for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano.
8 Bagatelles for Clarinet and Piano.
Quintet for Clarinet and Strings
Andreas Schabals (cl
); Janna Polyzoides (pn
); Hugo Wolf Qrt
class="ARIAL12"> NEOS 10921 (54:45)
Friedrich Cerha (b.1926) is perhaps best known as the composer who completed the orchestration of Alban Berg’s
, and that
a major accomplishment. But it is also a confining fact, the sort that will inevitably head his obituary, somewhat at the expense of his music. Cerha is part of what some have called the Third Viennese School, including Kurt Schwertsik and H. K.Gruber, which has promoted a music that in its openness to older stylistic tropes and in its eclecticism is a very Central European form of postmodernism. Cerha may be the most conservative member of the group, though more in his scrupulous and modest aesthetic persona than in any sort of reactionary tinge.
These three chamber works for clarinet date from 2000, 2009, and 2004 (order of headnote). They are very much of a piece; perhaps not surprisingly, they feel very connected to the freely imaginative and lyrical world of Berg. Cerha has a great gift for writing music of extreme concision, but he doesn’t make a fetish of it; the music can become suddenly prolix on a dime. His greatest gift seems to me to be an ability to find a telling, iconic idea on which each movement of these works focuses (the quintet, by the way, has four). Though highly chromatic, his harmony always makes sense; it feels consistent. And there are gestures throughout that are extremely dramatic, albeit subtly. For instance, the final slow and anguished movement of the trio has a whimpering repeated gesture in the cello that seems outside the other two instruments’ orbit, almost painfully excluded. And in the final movement of the quintet, the clarinet softly murmurs and burbles, disconnected from the somber chorale of the string quartet. One can’t help but think that this sort of activity arises from Cerha’s involvement with musical theater, not only Berg’s but his own operas.
The performances are sensitive and seemingly very accurate. I enjoy this music because it doesn’t show off, and has authenticity and subtle imagination. It doesn’t break any major boundaries or define new creative realms, but it’s not timid, either. And I also feel it will be a good entry point for any wanting to know more of Cerha’s work.
FANFARE: Robert Carl
Works on This Recording
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