György Kurtág Jr., son of the great Hungarian composer, has long been developing his own electronic music. In this unusual project, fellow composer László Hortobágyi integrates Kurtág themes into his own arrangements in a recording that celebrates a long friendship. “This is,” say the group members, “a Hortobágyi album about Kurtág,” as well as “an invitation to discover a new sphere of music”. Drifting ambient washes of synthesized sound, near-subliminal bass, collages of subtle colours and sudden eruptions are but part of the story. An intriguing addition to ECM’s growing catalogue of electronica for discerning listeners.
Collecting five CDs for about the price of three, this set of Boulez recordings is without parallel among the conductor's new-music releases. Imagine getting Boulez's celebrated single CD of Luciano Berio's Sinfonia and Eindrücke and his equally impressive single CD of Arnold Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande and Variations for Orchestra, bundled with four pivotal Elliott Carter works, Sir Harrison Birtwistle's electrifying …AGM…, Gérard Grisey's Modulations, Iannis Xenakis's Jalons, Hugues Dufourt's Antiphysis, and Brian Ferneyhough's Funerailles, and you have an idea how far this set stretches.
On Soli, Tamsin Waley-Cohen's 2015 release on Signum Classics, the violinist explores modernist repertoire composed between 1944 and 2005. Because these solo violin pieces by Béla Bartók, George Benjamin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Elliott Carter, and György Kurtág are challenging for both the player and the listener, one should approach this CD with some awareness that they reflect different phases of the avant-garde movement that dominated music in the last half of the 20th century. In quieter selections where the moods are primarily brooding or lyrical, Waley-Cohen produces a vibrant tone and smooth phrasing that make her playing easy to appreciate, even when the music isn't recognizably tonal. However, in louder, dissonant passages, notably in sections of the Bartók Sonata, Benjamin's Canon for Sally, Carter's Remembering Aaron, and Kurtág's Anziksz Kellerannanak, the close microphone placement makes her bowing sound overly resinous and scratchy, which can be hard to enjoy. Even so, few violinists dare approach this bracing material, and Waley-Cohen is to be commended for devoting a whole album to such cutting-edge pieces solely on her terms, without making compromises.
In literary criticism, we throw around our fair share of arbitrary terms. Yet one I stand by, and of which I am especially fond, is “intertextuality,” which refers to the borrowing, shaping, and influence of texts on other texts. Similarly, one can say many things about Hungarian composer György Kurtág. He is a “master of the miniature,” a microscopic craftsman. His language implodes with a hermetic (im)precision. His wit is boundless, unassuming, and unabashedly lyrical. And so forth. But in the end, his sound-world is nothing if not intertextual.
The six Bagatelles were originally part of a collection of 12 bagatelles composed for piano between 1951 and 1953. In 1953, Ligeti transcribed six of the bagatelles for a wind quintet made up of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. With the exception of the second and fifth bagatelles, these are quick, spirited little pieces. They reflect Ligeti's economical approach to composition, as a minimum number of notes are used to maximum effect……
The great viola player Kim Kashkashian has long been one of the most outstanding protagonists of modern composition and this bold and subtle account of solo music by the great Hungarian composers György Kurtág and György Ligeti is a landmark recording. Kurtág’s Signs, Games and Messages (1989- in progress) in its 19 aphoristic sections is as demanding as Ligeti’s Sonata for viola (1991-94), but Kashkashian surmounts the very different challenges of the works, and points towards the qualities that unite these composers. As ever, she gets to the heart of the music, and unravels its secrets.
Andreas Grau and Götz Schumacher, with their talent for putting together clever and innovative programs, have established themselves as one of the world's top piano duos. Their cooperation at the piano is evidence that the two expert pianists are nothing short of musical soul mates…