Schwantner: Sparrows & Music of Amber

30. August 2004

Der US-amerikanische Komponist Joseph Schwantner (*1943) zählt zu den erfolgreichsten und angesehensten lebenden Komponisten der USA. 1978 erhielt er für sein Orchesterwerk Aftertones of Infinity den Pulitzerpreis. Music of Amber für Kammerensemble erhielt 1981 den 1. Preis des hochangesehenen Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for excellence in chamber composition. Schwantners Musik ist seit jeher geprägt von der Suche nach magischen und betörenden Klängen, wobei er von den Ausführenden immer wieder ungewöhnliche Effekte und Zusatzaufgaben fordert, so etwa Pfeifen, Singen oder das Bedienen von ungewöhnlichen Instrumenten wie Kristallgläsern oder Crotalen. Die Auswahl dieses Albums mit Sparrows für Sopran und Ensemble, den reinen Kammerensemblewerken Music of Amber und Distant Runes and Incantations, dem Flötenstück Soaring sowie den beiden Klavierliedern Two Poems of Aguedo Pizarro stellt sinnliche, gelegentlich tonale, ja beinahe impressionistische Kompositionen vor, die den Interpreten ein feines Gespür für Klangnuancen abverlangen.

InhaltJoseph Schwantner (1943)
Sparrows (Kobayashi Issa), 1979
für Sopran, Flöte, Klarinette, Harfe, Schlagwerk, Klavier und Streichtrio
Soaring, 1986
für Flöte und Klavier
Distant Runes and Incantations, 1987
für Klavier, Flöte, Klarinette, Schlagwerk und Streichquartett
Two Poems of Aguedo Pizarro, 1980 *
für Sopran, Crotales und Klavier
Music of Amber, 1981
für Flöte, Klarinette, Schlagwerk, Klavier, Violine und Violoncello
* World Premiere Recording
MitwirkendeBritta Stallmeister Sopran
Florian Hölscher Klavier
Anne Parisot Flöte
Klaus Simon Leitung, Klavier

ProduktionFelix Dreher Tonmeister
Marie-Josefin Meindl Tonmeisterin
Klaus Simon Booklettext


„Die technisch recht schwierigen Stücke werden von Britta Stallmeister absolut wundervoll gesungen. Auch das Freiburger Kammerorchester Holst-Sinfonietta lässt gleich zu beginn schon aufhorchen. [...] Auf das kurze "Soaring" für Flöte und Klavier folgt das ungemein suggestive "Distant Runes and Incantations". Britta Stallmeister bewundern wir erneut in den "Two Poems of Aguedo Pizarro". Die "Music of Amber" schließlich besteht aus zwei sehr verschiedenen Sätzen, dem stimmungsvollen "Wind Willow Whisper" und dem mysteriösen, spanngungsgeladenen und rythmisch sehr prägnanten "Sanctuary".“


Juli/August 2005

„This new release in Naxos’s “American Classics” series features five compositions dating from the years 1979-1987, which corresponds roughly to Schwantner’s period at center-stage. The recording appears to be the result of a project carried out by a group of enthusiasts located in the city of Freiburg, Germany, under the leadership of Klaus Simon. [...] The earliest piece here, from 1979, is Sparrows for soprano and chamber ensemble. Two Poems of Aguedo Pizarro appeared the following year, and are settings of these surrealistic verses in English translations done by Barbara Stoller Miller. Both these compositions were written for soprano Lucy Shelton, who displays an uncanny affinity for Schwantner’s vocal music. Britta Stallmeister, who sings them here, is excellent, if a little shrill in comparison to Shelton’s more relaxed delivery. Music of Amber (1981), scored for mixed sextet, and Distant Runes and Incantations, written for piano and orchestra in 1984, and re-scored alternately for chamber ensemble in 1987, are two of Schwantner’s strongest works. It feels safe to say that how one reacts to either of them will indicate how one will feel about Schwantner’s music in general. [...] As is true for so many releases in Naxos’s “American Classics” series, this recording allows the curious listener to acquaint himself with a representative sample of music, superbly performed, by a notable composer who might otherwise be just a vaguely familiar name. And this for less than the typical price of a movie ticket in a neighborhood theater!“ Walter Simmons

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

11. Dezember 2004

„Britta Stallmeisters Sopran erscheint beweglich, charakterstark und nuancenreich. "Distant Runes and Incantations" heißt eine Art einsätziges Klavierkonzert, dessen Solopart Florian Hölscher virtuos meistert. [...] Die "Music of Amber" zeigt in ihren zwei gegensätzlichen Abschnitten die Instrumentationskunst Schwantners, die zur besonderen emotionalen Dichte des Werks beiträgt. Was die Holst-Sinfonietta und Klaus Simon hier wie in den anderen Nummern leisten, ist staunenswert: Jede Farbschattierung ist exakt getönt; ob fahle Streicher-, scharfe Klarinetten, perlendhelle Klavier- oder absterbende Flötenklänge - alles sitzt an seinem Platz.“ Michael Gassmann

BBC Music Magazine

Dezember 2004

„The Naxos American Classics series would be invaluable at any price, but this particular disc happens to be so board-sweepingly excellent that one almost feels guilty about buying it at its designated price point. Joseph Schwantner is still probably best known in the UK for his outstanding Percussion Concerto which soloist Adrian Spillett so memorably made his own as the winner of the 1998 BBC Young Musician of the Year. The opportunity to sample some of this composer’s smaller ensemble works would in itself be reason enough to part with the handful of coins required, but this collection is in fact absolutely masterly. The booklet notes use such words as ‘refined’, ‘delicate’ and ‘luminous’ in describing his work and allude to Crumb, Messiaen and Debussy as influences. All of this is true enough, but to the listener the fascination lies in Schwantner’s rare gift for avoiding both banality and gratuitous complexity while at the same time embracing both clarity and an uncompromising, undiluted modernism. The sensitive performances take the unpredictable but compellingly listenable nature of this apparent contradiction in their stride. Stallmeister’s richly lyrical interpretations of the two vocal works (Sparrows and Two Poems of Aguedo Pizzarro) positively glow. Absolutely unmissable.“ Roger Thomas

Classical Music Web

November 2004

„Persist beyond the clanging, echoing opening discords of ‘Sparrows’ and you will find a composer who, if you didn’t already know his music, has a real creative individuality, and a fine ear for the texture of sound. This first work, which sets the fifteen stanzas of a translated Japanese poem, is scored for solo soprano, with an instrumental ensemble of flute, clarinet, harp, percussion, piano and string trio. The music has a luminosity which recalls the Britten of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A curious Neo-Classicism steals into the music at the words ‘And, when I die,/ Be thou guardian of my tomb,/ Grasshopper’, leading the piece to its gentle conclusion. A satisfying piece, and Schwantner has the ideal soloist in Britta Stallmeister who moulds the demanding and very high soprano part wonderfully well. One of the most impressive things is that her words are so good, a quality rarely possessed by very high voices like hers.“ Gwyn Parry-Jones