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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Heinz Holliger, Romancendres, Feuerwerklein, Chaconne, Partita, Daniel Haefliger, Gilles Vonsattel

It took me a little bit to realize that Heinz Holliger isn't just a marvelous oboe player who occasionally composes music of interest, but that he also is a composer of real stature. It's been dawning on me gradually. By now I am fully there. That has something to do with two recent releases, the first one today, the second I'll cover tomorrow.

Today it's time to look at an album of four works featuring Daniel Haefliger on cello and Gilles Vonsattel on piano (Artist Consort GEN 14330).

They begin with "Romancendres for Cello and Piano" (2003), a remarkable work. It is based on Clara Schumann's destruction by fire of Robert Schumann's "Five Romances for Cello" which the composer had written in 1853. She did it at the end of her life so that there would be no danger that it would be published! Holliger takes his personal dismay and horror at this destructive act and creates a dramatic work around it--"Romancendres", or Romance Cinders. Using the German alphabet system of note designations he creates motifs out of words associated with the event, integrates various Schumann motifs into the matrix and otherwise creatively gives us a fully abstract six-movement work coming to terms with the story.

It is a vividly dramatic piece with a feeling of transcendence in the end, a consolation that we have a work that in effect acts an an effigy, in no way romantic, but in every way modern and dynamic. Haefliger and Vonsattel give it a passionate and careful reading that suits it well.

The rest of the program contrasts with varied works for solo cello--"Chaconne" (1975), and solo piano--"Feuerwerklien" (2012) and the monumental abstract-expressive "Partita for Piano Solo" (1999), a half-hour work of great complexity and fundamental modernity played inside and outside the piano with excellence by Vonsattel.

These are high modernist, non-formulaic works of originality and strength. There is a strong inner logic to the "Partita" and the "Romancendres" that heralds a superior compositional mind at work, a composer of great stature to my mind.

Haefliger and Vonsattel give the music their considerable all. The record has a vivid presence. It is a marvelous collection of Holliger works no modernist would want to miss.

And there's another one tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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