LOUIS ANDRIESSEN: Anaïs Nin; De Staat – Cristina Zavalloni, voice/ Synergy Vocals/ London Sinfonietta/ David Atherton – Signum Classics SIGCD273, 75:02 [Distr. by Naxos] **1/2:

Why Andriessen chose the subject of Anaïs Nin mystifies me. Though he sees her as a “brilliant, many-sided woman”, most view her as a sexually incorrigible nymphomaniac. Lionization in an operatic “monodrama” as he calls this, seems a little over the top and an egregious attention-getter. This is confirmed by pictures of the premiere from the Andriessen blog about his music where the star, Cristina Zavalloni spends most of her time in a lounger scantily clothed, accompanied by the musicians whose instruments reflect the spirit of the times—saxophones, clarinets, percussion, etc. Maybe this is a piece you have to see as well as hear, or maybe the flirtatious engagement with the eyes distracts one from the rather vapid and irritatingly noisy music. With Andriessen, the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of composers, we always get a firm splash of cold water in the face, but in this case the originality has morphed into sameness, and the experience is something quite less than so many of his other works, this time sounding in places like the lost pages from Threepenny Opera.

The Republic is indeed modeled after Plato as a meditation on the place of music in politics. It’s entirely different in conception from the Nin piece, and as a purely non-descriptive work reminds me very much of Stravinsky in many ways, with a more minimalistic rhythmic schema, hardly as complex as something the Russian would have created. The work is essentially a cantata, much more significant than Nin, and a good example of the earlier art (1972) of the composer, whose background ranged from jazz to studies with Berio in the avant-garde.

Performances are very good, with Cristina Zavalloni riveting in her role, though the sound is close and a little blaring. I just wish the music—and the libretto, taken from Nin’s works—was more engaging and a little less salacious.

—Steven Ritter