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Uneven collection featuring two excellent orchestral works played by the SWR20 July 2012
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This 2000 Col Legno disc in the Collage series (now remastered and reissued), profiles of a number of avant-garde composers, features four disparate pieces by Luigi Nono (1924-1990):
Due espressioni (1953 -- 11'56) SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg -- Hans Rosbaud, conductor Live, October 1953, Donaueschinger Musiktage
A Carlo Scarpa, architetto, ai suoi infiniti possibili (1984 -- 9'59) SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg -- Michael Gielen, conductor Live, October 1990, Donaueschinger Musiktage
Fragmente; an Diotima (1980 -- 27'03) Moscow String Quartet Live, October 1989, Festival Alternativa Moscow
Post-Prae-Ludium Donau (1987 -- 13'17) Giancarlo Schlaffini, tuba, and the Experimentalstudio des SWR, live electronics Live, October 1987, Donaueschinger Musiktage
The highlights of the disc are the two short orchestral works, one early and one late, both performed by the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, arguably the world's best orchestra in contemporary repertoire. Both are recordings from the Donaueschinger Musiktage, the long-running German neumusik festival. "Due expressioni" from 1953 is led by Hans Rosbaud, the SWR's founding music director. It is a serialist work that begins with a slow section featuring strings, and then, punctuated by percussion, moves into a more energetic section dominated by woodwinds. This latter passage sounds like a Titan trying to walk, bound in chains, building speed gradually, lumbering, and ends as that process continues, like the proletariat rising up and throwing off its chains...
"A Carlo Scarpa," led by Michael Gielen, music director of the SWR from 1986-1999, is in honor of a friend of Nono upon his death, a Venetian architect. The piece sounds to me like an open spiral staircase, repeating a slow, stately passage several times, punctuated by tuttis like thunder and lightning in the distance. It is harmonically stripped down to only the two notes of C and E-flat, with microtonal variations. This recording is slightly sharper, and the performance about 20 seconds longer, than the live recording by Gielen and the SWR from a year earlier, found on a Naive Montaigne disc.
Nono's only string quartet, "Fragmente-Stille," written in 1979-1980, inaugurated his "late period," marked by low volume and the use of electronics as well as spatialization of the music. This recording is a year earlier than the better known Arditti Quartet studio recording of July 1990. It is nearly nine minutes shorter, and almost sounds like a different piece altogether. The Arditti Quartet takes it much slower, and accentuates both the fragmentation and the stillness (silences) far more than this Moscow String Quartet version, which sounds far more conventional. According to the liner notes of the Arditti Quartet recording, Nono's score uses a scale of fermatas of 12 different lengths to indicate the value of each note, to be determined by the performer. Nono's instruction is "To breathe, to dream, to think always, and always differently -- FREE." So clearly the quicker pace found here is valid, but I find the Arditti Quartet's interpretation to be preferable, and more consistent with the slow, microscopically detailed focus of Nono's late period.
Finally, "Post-Prae-Ludium," an electro-acoustic piece for trombone and electronics. This is a fine, fascinating piece if you're interested in this sort of thing. The tuba's timbre is reshaped with a delay by the electronics in an ever-morphing sonic tableau. Unfortunately it is marred by some loud coughing from what sounds like the front row.
I recommend this disc to serious Nono devotees, mainly for the two fine orchestral works.
(verified purchase from a large brick-and-mortar bookstore)