Notes and Editorial Reviews
This on the surface bizarre and entirely non-commercial coupling is a ‘protest’ album, with which members of the Berlin Philharmonic and their chief conductor hope to raise their voices against the rising spectre of fascism and incidents of violence against foreigners living in Germany. As such, it may be regarded as a private, German affair, but worth acquiring on musical grounds for a very beautiful performance of the Mahler songs (by the Yugoslav-born Lipovsek, whose appearance is also meant to be symbolic) and for the Nono cantata, The Song Suspended or In Suspense, which sets a series of texts written by condemned European resistance fighters before their execution at the hands of the Nazis. The recording having been taken at a ‘live’
concert, the texts are also spoken in German – eloquently by Susanne Lothar and Bruno Ganz – and interspersed among the musical sections of Nono’s piece, which is serial in technique, but imbued with a songful and soulful lyricism in the vocal sections that reveal the composer’s Italian background. Nono may have been an avant-gardist – unfashionable word today – but he wrote important music about important matters. Abbado, a long-standing advocate, conducts a superbly disciplined, deeply felt account of this music.
– Hugh Canning, BBC Music Magazine
Normally, propriety requires a stretch of time between a CD's release and its mention in the Classical Hall of Fame. In the present case, one's reason for so elevating a disc in the issue in which it is reviewed (by someone else) has to do with the position it occupies in the history of art-music recording vis-à-vis the world in which such music exists.
When I was a kid, the Zeitgeist bestowed upon "serious" music the ability to confer grace; to imbibe music's essence ennobled the soul. We Americans are a pragmatic lot. We seek a quid pro quo, tangible or spiritual, from that in which we invested effort, time and/or expense. Having bought into the system from, I suppose, predisposition, I found Beethoven casting the most potent spell, the Tchaikovsky of the symphonies close behind. (Certain elixirs worked better than others. My people were tabloid readers—the Daily News, "New York's Picture Newspaper." I bought the New York Times at the corner candy store as much as an exercise in ameliorative magic as from an interest in what was going on. I also remember at about age ten lighting a cigarette, a stolen Camel, on the living-room couch in the buff—the folks worked day shifts—awaiting the erotic rush smoking movie actors so often seemed about.)
The notion that great art elevates sustained a heavy blow at the hands of World War I. But that was before my time. The second war wasn't, and I am painfully aware, as is just about everyone who can name the capital of Canada and do long division, that a hellishly brutal Germany was, par excellence, a music-loving nation. It is therefore a matter of moment, a moment to celebrate however one can, that a German-headquartered label presents that nation's best-known orchestra in a recording that specifically protests the ethnically motivated cruelties now taking place there. I'm not one of Fanfare's Mahler mavens. Suffice to say that, since I heard her in Frank Martin's melancholy masterpiece, Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christophe Rilke (Orfeo C 164 881 A), I've been an admirer of Lipovsek's craft and find the mezzo and Abbado's roles in the present recording exemplary, as I do this splendid orchestra. Suffice also to say that for anyone who follows the music of our time a well-done Luigi Nono work is always welcome.
The music, of course, is the thing. One concentrates in this case, however, on page after page in the insert of signatures of men and women involved in the Berlin Philharmonic's operation and sponsorship who have lined up to identify with the present recording's purpose. Additionally, Abbado's and five names attach to an excerpt of the program notes (I assume to the concert in which the Nono work was performed—the Mahler is of another occasion). The statement concludes: ' 'The folly of any attempt to segregate people according to their geographical, ethnic or cultural origins is clear from a glance at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Within our orchestra—including our artistic director and intendent—there are people of the most varied nationalities and backgrounds, all of whom have left their mark on [our] artistic profile. . . .It is the immense variety of people and musical styles that forms the starting-point for all our work. Our concert tours are aimed at increasing international understanding, which is why we take this opportunity to appeal to everyone to be vigilant and prevent this evil and pernicious attitude from spreading any further." Amen to that.
– Mike Silverton, FANFARE [11/1993] Read less
Works on This Recording
Il canto sospeso by Luigi Nono
Marek Torjewski (),
Susanne Otto (Alto),
Bruno Ganz (Spoken Vocals),
Suzanne Lothar (),
Barbara Bonney (Soprano)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1955-1956; Italy
Date of Recording: 12/1992
Venue: Live Berlin
Kindertotenlieder by Gustav Mahler
Marjana Lipovsek (Mezzo Soprano)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1901-1904; Vienna, Austria
Be the first to review this title