Notes and Editorial Reviews
Lieder von einer Insel
Jan Vogler (vc); Kristjan Järvi, cond; Barvarian RSO
NEOS 11014 (SACD: 39: 19)
This is an unusual pairing, and it works surprisingly well. I’ve written about Carter’s concerto in
29:5, and so I’ll refer readers to my comments on the piece there. The work is not one of my favorites, but it does have striking
moments throughout, especially its slow section, which is truly crystalline and ethereal.
But the news in this release is the concerto by Udo Zimmerman (b.1943). Years ago I obtained a multidisc set of music from the former East Germany, and he was one of the few composers to leap out of the mix. He is particularly noted as a composer and director of opera, so not surprisingly this piece has a strong lyric voice and a dramatic profile. According to the notes, its solo line is a series of “private settings” of texts chosen by the composer, which helps to create the natural, flowing, and impassioned melodic writing. (The subtitle is “Songs from an Island.”) The piece is basically tonal (the notes say that most is in A Minor), and the orchestral accompaniment—which slowly emerges from miniscule interventions to full tutti over its course—is composed mostly of canons, which create a textural river on which the soloist floats. There is one section of extended fast music (the penultimate of five movements), but the overall tone of the work is contemplative. To some extent its language strikes me as though it could be from a mid-20th-century minor master, such as Martin or Martin?. But the textural, static, and neo-tonal aspects of the piece make it very much postmodern, or at least not reactionary (though the annotator still seems somewhat baffled by it, calling it “meandering”; I suppose something as beautiful as this—and it is—is still suspect in some circles).
The Carter is brilliantly performed, but I still prefer the recording I reviewed earlier, featuring Fred Sherry as soloist with Oliver Knussen and the London Sinfonietta. What’s missing for me in the recording under review is the sense of quicksilver wit that’s the distinguishing characteristic of Carter’s “late-late” music. The Bavarians play it all just a little too smoothly and seriously, when it needs to be both more light and on-the-edge.
This is an SACD surround-sound release, and the sound is great, even when played in traditional stereo (my setup, though I do have an SACD player). The duration is a little short, and if you want the Carter I’d urge you to go to Bridge 9184, which includes
for piano and orchestra, the ravishing
(the composer’s “Brandenburg”)—the whole disc is a stunning collection. But the Zimmerman is worthy of attention.
FANFARE: Robert Carl
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Cello by Elliott Carter
Jan Vogler (Cello)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 2001; USA
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