Friedrich Goldmann (1941-2009) is one of the finest and most accomplished late 20th century composers who is virtually unknown in the U.S. Goldmann is unknown because the first and formative half of his composing career was spent in the DDR (or GDR), the former East Germany. He was able to study with Stockhausen at Darmstadt in 1959, and was friends with Helmut Lachenmann in later life -- so much for the idea that only social realism was allowed in the old Soviet bloc. Paul Dessau and Rudolph Wagner-Regeny were more major influences on Goldmann. He was a member of the DDR Arts Academy beginning in 1978 where he became the teacher of yet another generation of composers, and after reunification taught composition at the Berlin Hochschule der Kunste (Academy of Art). Goldmann created a substantial body of work, and was also a frequent conductor.
This disc is the best introduction to Goldmann's music, or the one essential Goldmann disc for a collection if you go no further. SINFONIE 1 (1972/3 -- 21'35) is his best-known work. This recording is of Herbert Kegel leading the Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Leipzig, which is also included in two Berlin Classics sets, Orchestral Musik in der DDR and East German Symphonies. (Another recording is included in the Musik in Deutschland 1950-2000 Box 2.) It is quite dramatic, with three movements (fast-slow-fast) that utilize and reshape standard elements of the classical tradition. According to Goldmann, he addressed "...the dialectic that holds sway in this symphony as elsewhere between the towering demands of the genre and the awareness of its inappropriateness to the present state of development of society and music." Frank Schneider's excellent liner notes contain much more such explication than I can include here. As you might expect this is post-Second Vienna School music, atonal and sometimes harsh, always expressionistic. But Goldmann always works with structure, as this quote indicates -- the listener is in no danger of drifting in stasis or drowning in Debussian washes of pretty chromatic sounds.
INCLINATIO TEMPORUM (1981 -- 21'16), with the composer leading the Staatskapelle Berlin, is a superficially subdued piece in one movement, which is however filled with complex shifting tempos, hence the title. Finally, the SINFONIE 3 (1986 -- 33'29), with Goldmann leading the Leipzig orchestra, is again in three movements (fast-slow-fast). To some extent one can hear Goldmann incorporating a polystylism in this work, perhaps drawing on Schnittke and Rihm, but the imposing structure has more continuity with SINFONIE 1 than with other influences. The first movement concludes with a massive, suggestively Romantic tutti. Written at a time of mounting discontent in the DDR, during the period of glasnost and perestroika, only three years before the fall of the Berlin wall, the work's structure now seems prophetic. As Schneider explains, "...the elegant, springy incursions of the final movement..." seem initially to dispel the gloom of the central Lento, but "[b]ut this formally structured rondo, grouping five character portraits into fifteen sections and ostensibly directed towards a predictable fulfilment of happy-ending expectations, goes more 'pear-shaped' the longer it continues." In the end, "[b]efore the whole thing falls to pieces altogether and the symphonic construction goes under as a hapless wreck, the composer intervenes as a deus ex machina to put a stop to the mischief with a forceful tutti stroke."
This disc is Volume 2 in the NOVA Rediscovered (Neue Musik in der DDR) series from Berlin Classics. This is a line of CD reissues from the archives of the VEB Deutsche Schallplatten label based in Berlin, originally on vinyl. The original cover art is reproduced on the cover and in the booklet. As of 7/26/10, this disc is available from Amazon.co.uk.
I consider Goldmann to be among the best contemporary composers. I believe he should be as well-known as his late 20th century German peers -- Hans Werner Henze, Helmut Lachenmann and Wolfgang Rihm.