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Winds & Strings - Music Of Spohr, Ibert, Janacek & Widmann

Spohr / Ibert / Janacek / Widmann / Tetzlaff
Release Date: 09/11/2012 
Label:  Cavi Music   Catalog #: 8553261   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Louis SpohrJacques IbertLeos JanácekJörg Widmann
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WINDS AND STRINGS Andrea Lieberknecht (fl, pic); 1,2,3 François Leleux (ob); 1,3 Sebastian Manz (cl); 1,3 Marie-Luise Neunecker (hn); 1,3 Dag Jensen (bsn); 1,3 Lisa Batiashvili (vn); 1 Rachel Roberts (va); 1 Read more Julian Arp (vc); 1 Alois Posch (db); 1 Florian Donderer (vn); 2 Jana Bousková (hp); 2 Shirley Brill (cl); 3 Christian Tetzlaff (vn); 4 Marie-Elisabeth Hecker (vc); 4 CAVI 8553261 (74:51) Live: Heimbach Spannungen Festival 2011

1 SPOHR Nonet for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon and Strings in F major, op. 31. 2 IBERT 2 Interludes for Flute, Viola, and Harp. JANÁCEK Mládí for Wind Sextet. 4 WIDMANN 24 Duos for Violin and Cello, Book 2: 11 Duos

Pianist Lars Vogt is founder and artistic director of the Heimbach Spannungen Festival, named for its setting in a hydro-electric power station. “Spannungen” is translated as “live” (as in live wire), “tension,” “voltage,” and other words related to electrical current. Images of the concert auditorium’s seats rigged as electric chairs comes to mind, lending a whole new meaning to performance execution. Anyway, Vogt is not one of the participants in this particular recording of chamber works taken from performances at the spring festival in 2011.

Spohr’s Nonet has gained a fairly secure foothold in the repertoire. Though works for nine instruments had been written before—some of Haydn’s Divertimenti, for example—Spohr’s was the first to use the term “nonet” in the title, and its instrumentation for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and double bass became the standard for later contributions by George Onslow, Louise Farrenc, Franz Lachner, Rheinberger, Foerster, Martin, and others. Spohr’s 1813 Nonet is a thoroughly delightful piece in an easy-flowing early-Romantic style that’s in keeping with much of the chamber music of the period by composers such as Onslow, Weber, Conradin Kreutzer, Berwald, and Czerny. There’s not a whiff of Beethoven, and if there’s a hint of Schubert, it’s Schubert on happy pills. The performance at hand is a fine one, but it’s easily matched, though definitely not outclassed, by two longtime favorites, those by the Gaudier Ensemble on Hyperion and the Nash Ensemble on CRD.

If Spohr’s Nonet is a mostly upbeat, cheerful piece, Ibert’s Two Interludes for Flute, Viola, and Harp transport us to distant, exotic places, each quite different from the other. The first Interlude conjures Elysian Fields of surpassing peacefulness and beauty. Written in 1946, the piece sounds almost more English than it does French, recalling the musical landscapes painted by the English Pastoralists. Ibert achieves the effect using fairly simple diatonic harmonies supporting a lyrical melody, rather than the chromaticism, complex chords, and vague progressions often favored by the French Impressionists. What an enchanting thing it is. The second Interlude transports us to somewhere south of France—to Spain or Morocco perhaps—with distant echoes of some sort of ethnic ritual dance. I wasn’t familiar with either of these pieces before hearing them on this disc and, frankly, I find them so mesmerizing I’d recommend this CD for just these eight minutes of music alone.

Janácek’s Mládí (Youth) for Wind Sextet was written in 1924 by a composer who had just turned 70. Scored for flute (switching to piccolo for the March of the Blueboys in the third movement), oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and a bass clarinet part for a sixth player, the piece is fairly well known and has had a number of excellent recordings, including one by the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet on BIS, which I reviewed in 35:4. The performance here couldn’t be a chirpier, more chipper delight.

Eventually, as they say, a little rain must fall and, for me it comes in the form of Jörg Widmann’s Duos for Violin and Cello, written in 2008. This music may mean something in Morse code to a telegraph operator, but to one who never worked for Western Union, it’s an unintelligible cacophony of pizzicato plucks, suggestive of a chicken’s pinfeathers being tweezed, sul ponticello scrapes and squeals, spastic tremolos, and spandex glissandos, all contesting in a discordant organum of minor seconds, major sevenths, and minor ninths. How original! To colleagues and readers capable of appreciating this sort of thing, my apologies if this offends, but I thought that composers (at least young, American ones) had long since abandoned this barren path. Of course, Widmann is not American; he’s a German composer who studied with Hans Werner Henze, Heiner Goebbels, and Wolfgang Rihm, and he seems still beholden to an avant-garde school that lost its credentialing some time ago.

For the Spohr, Ibert, and Janácek, which, together, make up over 75-percent of the disc’s timing, very strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Nonet for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon and Strings in F major, Op. 31 by Louis Spohr
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1813; Germany 
Le burlador: Interludes (2) for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord/Harp by Jacques Ibert
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; Rome, Italy 
Youth by Leos Janácek
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; Brno, Czech Republic 
Duos (11) by Jörg Widmann

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