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The late music of Luigi Nono (1924-1990), from his 1980 string quartet on through "'Hay que caminar' sognando" for violin duo of 1989, continues to be very influential in European neumusik circles. This 2-disc Kairos set from 2008 is one indication of this, bringing to light a major little-known work from 1986-87, and the Neos label has in the past year released two discs of late Nono music, including more previously unheard compositions.
The concept here is valid, putting all three of the post-Prometeo works together inspired by the Spanish phrase: "Caminante, no hay caminos. Hay que caminar." (Wayfarer, there is no path. Yet you must walk." The Kairos package is certainly impressive, with the red-and-black cover appropriate given Nono's life-long commitment to the Left. But the contents are not quite as impressive, and hence the four-star rating. All three pieces were recorded in May 2004.
No hay caminos, hay que caminar... Andrej Tarkowskij (1987 -- 24'21)
for seven orchestral groups
Emilio Pomarico leads the WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln in this excellent orchestral work. The spatial separation of the seven groups around the audience is of course lost, and would only be realized in a live performance. I find this to be a very effective late Nono piece, with a sparse, narrow band of sound centered on G. Sometimes spreading out to six octaves in vast tuttis, the music is intriguing and suspenseful, and encourages the close listening Nono sought in his low-volume epics of the Eighties. Josef Hausler's liner notes include the following fascinating insight: "The choice of the note G -- and here I take up an idea from the conductor Michael Gielen -- is perhaps secretly reflecting a connection of ideas deeply significant for Nono. The note G is called "sol" in Italian. Yet "il sol" is the sun. When understood as a byword for light, progress, freedom, revolution, this is perhaps a coded reference for ethical beliefs to which Nono held throughout his life..."
Unfortunately this is not the best performance or recording of the work, dedicated to the Russian filmmaker. Despite some flaws due to the live recording, the 1989 performance of the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, led by Michael Gielen is more immediate, warmer, more dynamic and compelling.
"'Hay que caminar' sognando" for two violins (1989 -- 26'29)
Irvine Arditti and Graeme Jennings
This long, sparse, meditative violin duo has been recorded several times before. This new recording is fine, but not an improvement over earlier performances. (See my reviews of the Gidon Kremer recording reissued in the DG 20/21 series and the earlier Arditti recording, paired with the "Fragmente-Stille" string quartet of 1980).
Caminantes... Ayacucho (1986-87 -- 34'33)
for mezzosoprano, flute, small and large choirs, organ, three orchestral groups and live electronics
Susanne Otto is featured in this excellent work, with the Solistenchor Freiburg, the WDR Runkfunk Chor Koln, the WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln, and Andre Richard in charge of the Experimentalstudio des SWR's electronics. I was surprised not to see it marked as a premiere -- apparently it was previously recorded for a very obscure, limited edition label of some sort. Certainly this is the first opportunity most of us have to hear it.
Clearly this is highlight of the set. It is roughly similar to PROMETEO, but more extroverted and engaging. The lyric, from Giordano Bruno, sounds in context like an exhortation to working people not to give in, to keep up the fight:
"Do you waver, weak mind, to complete your sublime work, because the time is unworthy in which you bestow the gift?
As the swelling clouds cover the land, raise yourself, our Olympus, your head ascending clear to the Ether."
The reference to Ayacucho, the Andes city in Peru, is of particular significance given that it was the epicenter of the Maoist movement of the Eighties commonly known as the "Shining Path." As always, Nono's choral writing is sublimely beautiful. This shorter work is not any sort of radical break from the sound of the epic PROMETEO, but is well worth hearing for anyone who enjoys the late Nono.
I continue to treasure the music of Luigi Nono, early and late, as we move into ever more perilous times. Little could he have imagined the scope of the climate crisis caused by rampant capitalism!
Let us move forward on the path, making it as we go.
(verified purchase from ArkivMusic)