FURRER: Fama (2004/05) – Isabelle Menke, speaker/ Eva Furrer, contrabass flute/ Bernhard Zachhuber, bass clarinet/ Manfred Spitaler, bass clarinet/ Klangforum Wien/ Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart/ Beat Furrer, conductor – Kairos

by | Dec 26, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

FURRER: Fama (2004/05) – Isabelle Menke, speaker/ Eva Furrer, contrabass flute/ Bernhard Zachhuber, bass clarinet/ Manfred Spitaler, bass clarinet/ Klangforum Wien/ Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart/ Beat Furrer, conductor – Kairos Multichannel SACD 0012562KAI 66:30 *:

Beat Furrer (b. 1954) is a Swiss who studied music in Vienna and conducting with Otmar Suitner. His opera Fama, named after the Roman god of Rumor, takes its cue from an extended quotation from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Furrer designed a special acoustical space for his opera, a kind of rotating 180-degree auditorium into which an audience fits while music occurs within and around them. I suppose it’s Wagner’s all-embracing artwork pushed another inch toward spatial boundlessness. The protagonist is a female figure named Else, taken from an Arthur Schnitzler novella Fraulein Else, in which a girl prostitutes herself to save her debt-ridden father. These expressionistic impulses find plenty of abstract representation in Furrer’s “music,” which consists of vocal mutterings, snickering, whispers, a solo violin, the hysterical ramblings of Else [in German], a dialogue between bass clarinets, scattered and amalgamated tone clusters.

Recorded 14 October 2005, the music, or better collage of effects, gains a direct presence from the surround sound medium. Elements of Schoenberg’s Sprechstimme technique meet aleatory impulses in the battery and what seems like random sounds from strings or mallet. Are we inside Olivia de Haviland’s head in The Snake Pit? It’s all so minimal, like a musical experiment in psychological phenomenology. Ms. Menke speaks clear German. Maybe Brecht is an influence. I think Altman did a better job with this kind of interior self-appraisal in Images (1972), with Susanna York. I got tired of the whole opus by the third scene, but I stuck it out. If this is the tip of the avantgarde, then I am stuck on the bottom of the iceberg. If Mr. Furrer and Mozart were to converse, wouldn’t the latter ask, “Whose music do you think people will want one hundred years from now?” If anyone wants my copy, ask.

— Gary Lemco

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