Now for something completely different: the campanula, a 1985-invented contribution to the string family by Helmut Bleffert. A combination of cello, baryton, and viola d’amore, the instrument has 16 diatonically-tuned sympathetic strings which run parallel to the fingerboard on each side; as the music requires, they can each be tuned differently. The four bowed strings are tuned in fifths, which together with the instrument’s bell-flower shape, provide a rich assortment of overtones and a vibrant sonority. This album plays like an acoustical tryout for your audition.
Campanulist Michael Denhoff (b. 1955) is a student of Siegfreid Palm as well as a composer, and his pieces, the longest of which is his Circula el tiempo (1994), seems to extract an aesthetic from Proust and from Webern. The piece is an extended canon, with one to four voices active at any time; and, as the work is interspersed with rests and silences, we are forced to attend to the elementary components of music and existence. Wenn aber. .. (1987) is a fractured memorial to a fellow student, C.S., who committed suicide. Sound effects and natural harmonics rule. Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970) came to my attention through Dimitri Mitropoulos‚ having performed his Oboe Concerto in Cologne. His Four Studies (1970) were inspired by a conversation with Siegfried Palm. Terse to the point of invisibility, they are slight gestures all. Gyorgy Kurtag (b. 1926) tends to miniaturization, anyway, so his 80 seconds of still loneliness comes as little surprise. Only Blumenthaler (b. 1951) and Bach offer us anything like functional, conventional melody for this richly-toned instrument, which must either depend on arrangements or some new lyricist to reward its possibilities with song.