Horizon 3 = MICHEL VAN DER AA: Spaces of Blank; OTTO KETTING: Trajecten; KEURIS: Antologia; GUBAIDULINA: Der Reiter auf dem weißen Pferd; MAYKE NAS: No reason to panic – Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano/ Royal Concertgebouw Orch. – RCO Live

by | Dec 21, 2010 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Horizon 3 = MICHEL VAN DER AA: Spaces of Blank; OTTO KETTING: Trajecten; TRISTAN KEURIS: Antologia; SOFIA GUBAIDULINA: Der Reiter auf dem weißen Pferd; MAYKE NAS: No reason to panic – Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano/ Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/ Ed Spanjaard, Markus Stenz, & David Robertson, conductors – RCO Live multichannel SACD 10003, 80:42 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

These are 2008-09 live recordings that are part of a series from the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, who are known for their advocacy of new music. So far the results, recorded in their typically spacious and wide-raging sound, have been very good indeed, and this latest issue keeps the high standards. Those thinking that they have no desire to subject themselves to 80 minutes of new music might want to think again, as all of these pieces are worthwhile, and none terribly esoteric or outside the realm of the (at least) relatively successful.

In Spaces of Blank Michel van der Aa is trying to take us through spaces “that stand for Angst in the German Romantic sense of the word”, meaning that stands for his interpretation of the varied concepts of space as found in the five poems selected as the basis of this song cycle: three texts by Emily Dickinson and Anne Carson, and two new ones by Rozalie Hirs. I would be hard pressed to even imagine Emily Dickinson’s reaction to the music her poetry provokes in this work, but then again perhaps her visionary and mystical sensibilities would indeed be open to it if she had experienced the vicissitudes of history since her death up to our own time. The three movements are vaguely tonal, dramatic and strangely lyrical in a Bergian sense, interacting with an electronic part set up in the midst of the orchestra that provides shadings of sounds as one might think one might have seen the inklings of a ghost. An interesting work.

Trajecten (“Trajectories”) is a four-movement work that is easily subject to over-analysis, which I will not do here. Suffice it to say that to me it sounded not unlike the theory behind Ives’s Holidays Symphony, four works that could be played alone if needed, and each containing impressions of wisps of time and history, with a lot of dual-layered events and meanings. The groupings of the instrumental sections tend to emphasize this aspect of the music ideas ranging from the jazz to Gershwin to The Unanswered Question, albeit in much more “answered” form as Ives’s ambiguities are filled in here.

Antologia (1991) refers to harmonies, structures, and gestures from Tristan Keuris’s earlier works. The composer uses “chain cells” which compact and expand, and collide with one another in an effort to reinvigorate tonality and bring in an emotional power of expression which he feels the serialist composers were incapable of accomplishing. Personally I think this a dubious proposition, and think that what Keuris gives us here also takes a lot of connecting to in order to understand the emotional power behind his own language, which can be as formidable as some of the twelve-tone composers as well. But this does not negate the fact that this piece is communicative and can bring an inherent amount of expressive nuance to the listener.

Sofia Gubaidulina is the most famous composer on this disc, and this work, Der Reiter auf dem weißen Pferd (“The Weapon of the Rider on the White Horse”) speaks to the power of Gubaidulina’s intense Orthodox religious preoccupations, and this piece is a sort of “summary” of her St. John Passion/St. John Easter from 2001. The work is viscerally effective and provocative, reveling in glorious sound that attempts an ecstatic overthrow of our senses and some of the most visually-oriented music you will ever hear. Hints of Ligeti permeate her chordal structures, and I remained enthralled each time I hear this piece.

If you are allergic to modern music there is certainly no reason to panic over No reason to panic, a very engaging John Adams-like piece that was played during a stage change in preparation for a Prokofiev piano concerto at the main hall of the Concertgebouw. Part of the stage sunk into the cellar and rose up again bearing a grand piano. Since there had to be room for the orchestra’s stagehands, only the basses represented the string section. This is an intriguing and at many points an exciting piece as well, a madcap excursion that tested the audience ability to adapt and respond—which they do very well here, applause breaking out before the piece is even concluded. The sound is terrific and the playing equally good in this very worthy endeavor at presenting viable and engaging new music.

— Steven Ritter

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