URSULA MAMLOK, Vol. 3: 5 Capriccios; Stray Birds; Fantasy-Variations for Solo Cello; Time in Flux; 5 Bagatelles; String Quartet No. 2; Confluences; Kontraste – Heinz Holliger, oboe/ Anton Kernjak, piano/ Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano/ Harvey Sollberger, flute/ Fred Sherry, cello/ Jakob Spahn, cello/ Susanne Zapf, violin/ Cosima Gerhardt, cello/ Heather O’Donnell, p./ Helge Harding, clarinet/ Kristen Harms, violin/ Sonar String Q./ Ursula Holliger, harp – Bridge 9360, 72:45 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
I think I summed up just about all I can say regarding Ursula Mamlok in a previous review. This is Volume 3 in Bridge’s ongoing survey, and it easily equals the quality of the last issue. As you can see in the heading, her music attracts some heavy hitters performance-wise, and all of these recordings are of very recent vintage, so the company has done a fine job of assembling top-notch artists to give this composer the very best readings possible.
These pieces span a time period of 50 years, and each, though different stylistically (but still atonally based), are jam-packed with emotion and intensity. The shortest work is the 3three-minute Kontraste for oboe and harp, bookending this program with the opening oboe/piano work from 1968, 5 Capriccios. The longest work here is only 12 minutes, her String Quartet No. 2, a piece that was completed in 1998 and is a full 30 years later than her First Quartet, and far more neoclassical in style than the earlier rhetorically intense piece. Mamlok is always considerate of her players, and each piece here is suitably scored for the strengths of the instruments with only few occasional tricks or tonal extensions. She is a very dramatic composer—little humor but a lot of feeling—and doesn’t hesitate to exploit the virtuoso aspects of the instruments as well. There is no doubt that she is deserving of the recorded cataloging that Bridge is giving her, though a full CD at one sitting can prove difficult. Nevertheless, there are enough gems here to warrant a recommendation as last time, even though she will remain an acquired taste.