Perfect Strangers: HEINER GOEBBELS/ FRANK ZAPPA works [TrackList follows] – Norwegian Radio Orch./ Heinrich Sondergard (09/09/14) – LAWO Classics

by | Feb 21, 2015 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Perfect Strangers: HEINER GOEBBELS/ FRANK ZAPPA [TrackList follows] – Norwegian Radio Orch./ Heinrich Sondergard (09/09/14) – LAWO Classics multichannel SACD 1063 [Distr. by New Arts International] *****:

This new SACD is a wild and worthwhile ride, featuring two contemporary maverick composers with a variety of music in a spectacular multichannel recording.

The first half of the disc is the Suite for Sampler and Orchestra from Surrogate Cities by Heiner Goebbels. Goebbels works as a professor at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies of the Justus Liebig University in Giessen (Germany) and is President of the Theatre Academy Hessen. From 2012 to 2014 he was the artistic director of the International Festival of the Arts.

The Suite is dissonant and energetic. A fable of the modern city. It draws inspiration from Baroque music, Jewish prayer chants, and industrial noise. In the composer’s words, it is “an attempt to approach the phenomenon of the city from various sides, to tell stories of cities, expose oneself to them, observe them; it is material about metropolises that has accumulated over the course of time.”

It’s a perfect fit for the SACD format, with deep bass, sparking high frequencies, and very aggressive positioning of instruments and voices. The work may turn off traditionalists, and it is a challenge to listen to as it requires your full attention, but the work is extremely interesting and theatrical.

We also get a collection of the works by the late Frank Zappa, who made his mark in rock and avant-garde music. While Goebbels music is dark, Zappa’s is more playful. While Zappa was not taken seriously by some, he was in fact a skilled composer. Hearing his music played by The Norwegian Radio Orchestra in multichannel sound is a treat. Zappa’s music has a very ‘American’ sound to me, and I also hear traces of Leonard Bernstein and Edgard Varese. The works, like the Goebbels, are a technical challenge for the orchestra, with difficult rhythms and unexpected instrument entrances, but the playing seems perfect.

As mentioned, the SACD layer of this disc is simply superb. One of the best recordings I’ve heard, and it fully engages the surround channels as well as the LFE if you have a solid subwoofer. It’s a demonstration quality disc and fully justifies the SACD high resolution format.

This is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea musically, but I liked this disc very much. Those with an excellent sound system will enjoy it even of they don’t get completely enthusiastic about the musical merits of the works, but I find them a worthwhile listen both as music and as a state of the art recording. Highly recommended!


1. Suite for Sampler and Orchestra by Heiner Goebbels
2. Dog Breath Variations by Frank Zappa
3. Duprée’s Paradise by Frank Zappa
4. The Perfect Stranger by Frank Zappa
5. G-Spot Tornado by Frank Zappa
6. Revised Music for Guitar and Low Budget Orchestra by Frank Zappa 

—Mel Martin

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