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Reimann: Die Gespenstersonate (The Ghost Sonata) / Layer, Nocker, Knutson, Heistermann, Modl

Reimann / Nocker / Hiestermann / Lukas-kindermann
Release Date: 11/13/2012 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 101657  
Composer:  Aribert Reimann
Performer:  Horst HeistermannMartha MödlHans Günther NöckerDavid Knutson
Conductor:  Friedemann Layer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble ModernJunge Deutsche Philharmonie
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Aribert Reimann

Der Alte – Hans Günter Nöcker
Die Mumie – Martha Mödl
Der Oberst – Horst Hiestermann
Der Student Arkenholz – David Knutson
Das Fräulein – Gudrun Sieber
Johansson – Donald Grobe
Bengtsson – William Dooley
Die Dunkle Dame – Barbara Scherler
Die Köchin – Kaja Borris

Ensemble Modern
Junge Deutsche Philharmonie
Friedmann Layer, conductor

Heins Lukas-Kundermann, stage director
Dietrich Schoras, stage and costume designer

World premiere recording from the Hebbel-Theatre Berlin, 1984

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format:
Read more PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 88 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)

R E V I E W: 3652010.az_REIMANN_Die_Gespenstersonate_Friedemann.html

REIMANN Die Gespenstersonate Friedemann Layer, cond; Hans Günter Nöcker (Der Alte, Direktor Hummel); Martha Mödl (Die Mumie); Horst Hiestermann (Der Oberst); David Knutson (Student Arkenholz); Gudrun Sieber (Fräulein); Donald Grobe (Johansson); William Dooley (Bengtsson); Barbara Scherler (Die Dunkle Dame); Kaja Borris (Die Köchin); Young German P Modern Ens ARTHAUS 101657 (DVD: 88:00) Live: Berlin 9/25/1984

“I’ve seen a lot of things, but nothing like this!” exclaims Donald Grobe as Johansson, Director Hummel’s servant, to William Dooley as Bengtsson, the Colonel’s servant in scene 10 of this opera. He is referring to 73-year-old Martha Mödl as “Der Mumie” (the mummy), wife of the Colonel, who walks around muttering to herself about the dark evening and interspersing her words with parrot-like squawks. “That’s because she thinks she’s a parrot,” replies Bengtsson, so now you have about as much of a clue as to what this opera is about as I do or the audience does.

Welcome to the Bizarro world of August Strindberg, a surrealistic existentialist of a playwright whose play Die Gespenstersonate (The Ghostly Sonata) was turned into an opera by Aribert Reimann. Using only nine solo singers, a couple of silent extras as Director Hummel’s maid and as a dead Dairy Maid who can only be seen by the opera’s (sort of) main character, Student Arkenholz (David Knutson), Strindberg, and Reimann have woven a strange and depressing scenario in which people wander in and out of our sight and sound without really being able to relate to one another. Thus the Colonel’s wife, who has been living in a wall cabinet for 40 years, has become a “mummy” who thinks she’s a parrot. Early on, we discover that the 80-year-old Director Hummel once knew student Arkenholz’s father. The student believes that the Director bilked his father out of his life’s savings, but the Director insists that he made his father solvent but was blamed for his own bad investments and turned into a villain. To be honest, nothing in this opera really makes any sense and I’m not sure it was meant to. It’s just a dark, depressing little romp through a still-divided Berlin (1984) that puts you in mind of an Ingmar Bergman film on LSD.

Mind you, it’s extremely well done. I was rather amazed to discover that both Grobe and Dooley had retained their voices at this late stage in their careers, though the most astonishing singing is from tenor Knutson as Arkenholz. The orchestra, such as it is, uses only 12 musicians, so you can’t say that they put a lot of money into the orchestra pit. Reimann’s score is 12-tone, eerie, and strongly reminiscent of Wozzeck. Yet as I was watching it, I kept thinking of the old takeoff that Saturday Night Live once did of depressing German stage works. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this opera should have been called Schlumpf. The almost 30-year-old film of this, the world premiere, is in very good condition and was transferred well to DVD format. If this kind of opera is your cup of tea, this is definitely a good choice.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Die Gespenstersonate by Aribert Reimann
Performer:  Horst Heistermann (Tenor), Martha Mödl (Soprano), Hans Günther Nöcker (Tenor),
David Knutson (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Friedemann Layer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Modern,  Junge Deutsche Philharmonie
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Germany 

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